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Current Position:Home » News » Agri & Animal Products » Fruits & Vegetables » Topic

Mexico: Tabasco wants to boost banana production and exports

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2017-06-21  Views: 9
Core Tip: Given the prestige that the banana from Tabasco has gained internationally, producers are working to open new markets and earn back the "green gold" name with which people referred to the economy and production of this fruit decades ago, before the oil bo
Given the prestige that the banana from Tabasco has gained internationally, producers are working to open new markets and earn back the "green gold" name with which people referred to the economy and production of this fruit decades ago, before the oil boom.

In an interview with Notimex, the president of the National Banana Product System Committee, Adrian Prats Leal, said that the sector was the leading sector in the entity, mainly because of its labor force, as they hire one person per hectare, and the state has 12 thousand hectares of this product.

"There is no crop like bananas in the country. It is the only crop that generates jobs throughout the 52 weeks of the year and almost everything that is packed for export, is done by female labor," he said.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA), banana is the most important crop in Tabasco and the leading economic sector in the field.

Tabasco generates 350,000 to 400,000 tons of bananas a year, a little less than twenty five percent of the two million tons produced at the national level. The other producing states are Chiapas, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan and part of Veracruz.

"We can proudly state that six years ago we exported 10 percent of our production, and that we now export 45 to 50 percent of our product," he said.

According to Prats Leal, the banana has had a strong boom in recent years and has acquired great international prestige, as various parts of the world are beginning to make orders.

This, he said, has been thanks to the years of efforts made by producers in the mountainous region of the state, basically in the municipalities of Teapa, Tacotalpa, and Jalapa, as well as in Centro, Cunduacan, and Huimanguillo.

Currently the fruit is exported to Japan, Germany, Korea, Netherlands, Singapore, Russia, Ukraine, New Zealand, Belgium, Turkey, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Albania, Montenegro, and the United States. In addition, exporters have begun talks with China.

"If it weren't for the efforts made by producers, we wouldn't have achieved positioning ourselves like this in the export market. We are not making ourselves rich, but we have achieved balancing yearly prices. If we don't export the fruit out of the country, the sector would collapse," Prats Leal said.

He also said that producers were worried because of a lack of security, as there have been assaults on farms and in banking facilities to steal their payroll; a situation that needs to be solved.

Prats Leal, who is also the president of the National Council of Plantain Producers, said that the cultivation area had not grown much, as they needed to protect some territory against flooding and because they would not planted any new hectares unless they had the certainty that the production would be exported.

"When prices fall, there are times that a half liter of soda costs more than a box of bananas, so it is not even worth harvesting the fruit. That has not happened to us in recent years, but that's why we can't plant the fruit irresponsibly," he said.

He also said that oil would run out sooner or later and that the government should not lose sight of strengthening the fields, as they would be the largest source of income.

Maintaining quality is essential

One can find banana plantations with bagged clusters of bananas starting 35 km down the road from Villahermosa to Teapa which extend for the next 20 kilometers, almost up to Teapa.

There are dozens of farms located in the area, which merge with the plantations of the northern part of Chiapas and that encompass different communities, such as Sarabia, Quintana, Hermenegildo Galeana, Morelos, Juan Aldama, Nuevo Nicapa, Blanquillo, and Las Lilias, among others, which provide them with their labor force.

According to Evaristo Puga Jacome, an Agronomist Engineer, who graduated from the University of Chapingo, the quality of the fruit depends on pest and disease controls, defoliation, sanitation, defloration, bagging, harvesting, and product delivery.

Purga Jacome, who has been woking in banana farms for 25 years and has been in charge of Las Mirandas farm for a week, said they had a continuous production, as the plants were renovated after the first cluster.

Regarding the diseases affecting this crop, he said the black sigatoka was a very aggressive disease, especially when there was an excess of heat and humidity, and that they had to perform constant controls with chemicals, aerial fumigation, and weekly monitoring in the field.

He said these controls represented a high cost in production, as producers invested 25 to 30 percent of what they earned per box of bananas in them.

He said that they bagged the banana clusters two weeks after the plant flowered to accelerate its filling process and to protect them; the clusters are dated with distinctive ribbons and the thickness of the fruit is measured to achieve the appropriate size.

The bananas must arrive green at their destinations, whether they are sent to the United States, which takes an estimated two weeks, Europe or Asia, where they take three or four weeks to arrive, depending on the port of arrival.

"The marketer of each country distributes it and the maturation is programmed using cameras with ethylene gas applications, that is the normal process and it doesn't change the fruit's taste or nutrients. The humidity and temperature are controlled in the containers, which is why they must arrive green."

Selection and packaging
Each farm has a network of monorails to facilitate the transportation of the cut bunches to the packaging facilities.

This is the case at La Gloria farm, where the process is supervised by the manager, José Domingo Perez Priego.

He said that they checked the color ribbons of the bags, that the fruit's thickness was suitable for export, and that it wasn't damaged in any way before passing it to a group of women who select the fruit and place it in water containers that have alum to remove the sap or latex of the freshly cut banana.

Before being packaged they pass through two fumigations, one with chlorine and citric acid to remove latex residues, and a second fumigation to protect their crown, which seals the fruit's wound and protects it when being exported.

After being dried, 16 to 21 banana bunches are packed in boxes designed for 19 or 20 kilos of fruit. They are then placed in special bags and undergo a vacuum process before being placed on pallets and in a container, which can transport 1,080 boxes.

The packing process lasts three days, and it is an incessant activity in each farm that works to maintain the quality of the fruit for export.
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