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Late May calamities in Central America affect banana prices

by Tad Thompson | June 17, 2010
Bananas sourced in Central America will be in short supply at least until the end of June.

Bil Goldfield, communications manager for Dole Fresh Fruit Co. in Westlake Village, CA, on June 8 told The Produce News, "In the wake of recent natural events in Latin America, including volcano eruptions in Guatemala and Ecuador and Tropical Storm Agatha, overall banana volumes will be reduced and forecast to be tight through the remainder of June."

Freakish events simultaneously hit Guatemala in late May. The Pacaya volcano, which is 15 miles from Guatemala City, erupted on May 27-28. Several people were killed, and heavy ash on the capital city and elsewhere brought a declared national "State of Calamity." On May 29, matters in Guatemala worsened when Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were drenched by tropical storm Agatha, which caused flooding and mudslides that killed at least 180 people.

On June 8, Pete Carcione, owner of Carcione Fresh Produce in South San Francisco, CA, said, "The volcano is trouble and is delaying some ships from coming in. Basically, it's going to slow down everything. I hear also that prices are going up on bananas. The volcano is trouble, and Guatemala had 20 inches of rain in one day. Plus, the volcano played havoc in the supply of bananas."

As previously reported by The Produce News, Banana Link on May 31 quoted Noé Ramirez, general secretary of SITRABI (the Del Monte Banana Workers' Union), as saying, "Tropical Storm Agatha has caused the River Motagua to burst its banks, and nine communities and large swathes of the Bandegua [Del Monte] banana plantations have been completely flooded. We are still not sure what will happen to our jobs in the plantations, but the farms certainly look badly affected."

Banana Link continued that Guatemala's "President Alvaro Colom was quoted as saying that the economic damage caused by Agatha was considerable. In the border region with El Salvador, he said that at least 80 percent of the crops were lost. The crops most affected are oil palm, sugar cane and banana."

(For more on bananas, see the June 21, 2010, issue of The Produce News.)