What does the future hold for European bananas? Which decisive measures
must be taken to ensure a future for Community-produced bananas?
On 9 October 2019, Madeiran MEP Claudia Monteiro de Aguiar chaired a discussion on this theme in the European Parliament in Brussels.
“To build the future of European banana producers, we have the duty to preserve the cultural and identity dimensions of their territories”, said Madeiran MEP Claudia Monteiro de Aguiar. In Europe’s outermost regions, banana production is vital, as the social fabric and way of life in these rural communities is inextricably linked to this agricultural activity. But despite the efforts and drive of these communities, their fate appears even more uncertain if the conditions for fair and equitable trade are not assured. Time to take a closer look at the European banana, one of Europe’s vital assets.
Banana production in the outermost regions of Europe: a triple challenge on the economic, social and environmental levels When European consumers envisage agricultural products that are grown in the EU, the exotic products from the outermost regions of Europe are rarely the first things they have in mind. And yet, the Banane de Guadeloupe & Martinique, the Plátano de Canarias and the Banana da Madeira are the world’s leading banana productions in terms of labour law, environmental protection and the use of crop protection products, despite the climate constraints (tropical and subtropical zones) and their geographical remoteness.
Europe produces and sells almost 700,000 tons of bananas, all in accordance with European regulations, which are among the world’s strictest. Banana production in the outermost regions even goes one step further, complying with very stringent self-imposed environmental specifications. In just under 15 years, their production practices have led to a 75% reduction in the use of pesticides for example. Their goal is to achieve an additional 50% reduction by 2025.
In addition to these environmental commitments, European banana production creates approximately 40,000 (direct and indirect) jobs and over 500 million euros of net GDP. This ensures sustainable European banana production, based on the best cultivation practices, which guarantees the continued balanced development of the rural zones in these regions through these activities and the jobs they create.
The increased liberalisation of the European market: a threat to European banana producers The European market, which consumes 6.5 million tons of bananas ever year, is the world’s largest banana importer. Seventy-five per cent of these bananas are imported from Latin American countries. But the banana producers in these third countries are not bound by the same social, environmental, health and crop protection regulations as their European counterparts. This creates unfair competition with the banana producers of the outermost regions. The third countries supply large quantities of
bananas to this European market and benefit from substantial tariff concessions when doing so, thereby threatening the survival of European bananas in the short term. The lowering of customs tariffs has given rise to an increase in the volume of low-cost banana imports from the “dollar zone”. The constantly increasing supply in the EU market has led to a drop in prices: between 2015 and 2018, the price of a box of bananas dropped 15%, from €14.10 to €11.90, which is under the break-even level for European producers.
Towards transparent communication and fair competition Since its inception in 1989, the Association of European Banana Producers (APEB*) has defended the interests of thousands of banana producers in the outermost regions of the European Union, who are threatened by international competition that do not comply with European production standards. The association is working to ensure the survival of banana production in the Canary Islands, Madeira, Guadeloupe and Martinique, to guarantee a decent living for its producers and secure the jobs that are associated with this agricultural activity. To this end, the APEB made the following demands to the European and national authorities on 9 October 2019:
• The continuation of the in-quota tariff rate of €75/t for bananas imported through trade agreements without the option of renegotiating a lower tariff
• Fair market regulation to replace the current wholly ineffective stabilisation mechanism
• Imposing an obligation that all agricultural imports must come from sources that comply with the same rules that are imposed on European producers, more specifically regarding the use of crop protection products
• Agricultural producers, whether operating an organic or conventional farm, being barred from supplying to the European Union if they use crop protection products that are banned under EU law
• European consumers being entitled to transparent information about the differences between the production models of the European Union and those of third countries, whether for organic or conventional products, as well as to clear labelling that informs them about the origin of the imported products
“Our industry is a model for all others: European banana producers are the best advocates for European consumers in terms of food safety. The European banana is unique, ahead of its time against competitors who do not play fairly. To build its future, we need the support of our policy makers to create a space in which competition is experienced as a factor of progress that no longer destroys value. The European Union must be the guardian of our values.” – Laurent de Meillac, APEB President.
*The consortiums and organisations of banana producers of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Madeira and the Canary Islands are all members of the APEB
UGPBAN Union des Groupements de Producteurs de Bananes de Guadeloupe & Martinique
Karym Bagoee +33 7 78 20 57 27 +33 1 56 70 01 93 firstname.lastname@example.org
ASPROCAN Asociación de Organizaciones de Productores de Plátano de Canarias
Marta Rodríguez Ruiz +34 922 535 144 +34 690 876 356 email@example.com
GESBA Empresa de Gestão do Sector da Banana, Lda.
Agostinho Serrão +351 924404524 firstname.lastname@example.org
BRUSSELS PRESS OFFICE:
Sopexa S.A., Benelux 175 rue Bara, 1070 Brussels
Laurence Evrard – Managing Director & Philippine Bondil – Account Manager email@example.com – Tel +32 25 46 11 71