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The decline in banana imports from abroad is linked to the problems currently being faced by growers in Guatemala and Honduras: they were forced to use chemicals to save the harvest crop.

According to a recently published research “World: Bananas – Market Report. Analysis And Forecast To 2020” by IndexBox Marketing, the USA is the largest global consumer of environmentally-friendly food and drink products (organic products), which are produced without the use of artificial pesticides, mineral fertilizers, artificial food additives or GMOs. From 2008-2015, retail sales of organic food products on the U.S. market increased on average by 10.7% a year, reaching $40 billion. Organic bananas were amongst those products that recorded high demand: their price markup does not usually exceed 50-70% of the price of conventional bananas.

IndexBox analysts can confirm that in 2015, the average annual retail price for organic and conventional bananas in the USA amounted to $1.64/kg and $1.03/kg, respectively. In comparison, the price markup on organic berries can be as high as 200%. This explains why a consumer’s initial introduction to the organic food products market often begins with the purchase of organic bananas.

From 2007-2015, the U.S. consumption of all types of bananas increased by 1.7% a year on average, reaching $2.16 billion. Last year, organic bananas assumed only an 8% share of the U.S. market ($201 million). Due to excess demand over supply, however, IndexBox analysts forecast that this figure may rise to 20% in the medium term.

The organic banana market has not, to date, been able to fully realise its potential. From 2013-2015, its volume contracted at an average rate of 20.1%, reaching 329,000 tonnes, while the consumption of conventional bananas increased at an average rate of 3.1% (to 4.03 million tonnes). This trend pattern is directly associated with the USA’s dependence on foreign imports of organic bananas.

In 2015, the share of U.S. growers in terms of the USA’s banana consumption was recorded at less than 1% (5.5 thousand tonnes), while within the structure of banana output, the share of organic bananas amounted to only 17%. This signals, that even if all the plantations were to start producing organic bananas, U.S. growers would only succeed in securing a small share of the market.

Therefore, the consumption of organic bananas is subject to fluctuation, in line with their imports volume. From 2013-2015, Guatemala and Honduras reduced exports from 221,000 to 9,000 tonnes. As a result, imports to the USA fell respectively (from 523,000 to 328,000 tonnes), as did the consumption of organic bananas (from 524,000 tonnes to 329,000 tonnes).

IndexBox analysts maintain that the extraction of organic bananas from Guatemala and Honduras from the U.S. market was mandatory. Growers in Guatemala and Honduras were forced to treat the banana crops with fungicide to prevent the banana plantations from being infected with Black Sigatoka (a fungal infection that can lead to the total loss of the crop). As a result, the bananas grown here forfeited their status as an organic product.

Growers from Guatemala and Honduras managed to offset any losses incurred, through the export of non-organic bananas to the U.S. market; exports increased by 7.7% (to 1.8 million tonnes) and 12.1% (to 619,000 tonnes) respectively, from 2013-2015. This growth increase was achieved mainly by exporting bananas that had lost their status as an organic product. The vacant niche in the U.S. organic banana market was partially assumed by growers from Peru and the Domincan Republic, as they raised exports by 89.8% (to 66,000 tonnes) and 41.1% (to 6,000 tonnes), respectively. The growers from Guatemala and the Dominican Republic were successful in this regard, due to the climatic conditions that prevented the Black Sigatoka fungus from spreading too widely. Ecuador and Mexico also stepped up exports of organic bananas, by 6.3% to 126,000 tonnes and by 35.6% to 33,000 tonnes, respectively. Typically, in 2015, over 90% of imports from Peru and the Dominican Republic consisted of organic bananas, whereas imports from Ecuador and Mexico were dominated by non-organic bananas (Table 2).

IndexBox analysts forecast that the U.S. consumption of organic bananas is set to increase by at least 10% a year in the medium term. Guatemala and Honduras being slow to resume the cultivation and production of organic bananas may curb market development. In this event, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic will vie for the top spot on the U.S. market. 

Source: The U.S. Consumption of Organic Bananas is Falling Due to Reduced Imports 

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