Ecuador urges banana exporters to join forces

The alliance would control over 50% of banana exports

Latin American banana exporters are looking to form a trading alliance that would control more than 50% of global exports and could put pressure on supermarkets to pay more for the UK’s favourite fruit.

The government of Ecuador, which accounted for 14% of direct banana imports into the UK in 2012, has called on fellow exporters Costa Rica and Guatemala to work with it to increase bargaining power and better protect themselves against supply fluctuations and rising input costs.

Ecuador “seeks to strengthen the relationship with the world banana market and reach a regional alliance with other countries that are in the banana sector,” its government told exporters at a recent event.

Agriculture minister Javier Ponce was quoted by Andean news agency Agencia de Noticias Andes as saying: “We should not play the role of competitors, but rather reconstitute a producers’ force to confront markets together and develop pricing strategies.”

Ponce’s call has been backed by NGO Banana Link, which said it would support a Latin American arrangement between the key banana exporting nations as long as it was in line with WTO rules. “By coming together with an informal agreement on supply, the main exporting countries could achieve a fairer price from international markets,” said Alistair Smith, international co-ordinator at Banana Link.

It was too early to say what this might mean for banana retail prices, Smith said, but export prices were likely to go up by “a dollar or two a box”. Most consumers would probably not notice such an increase, but “going back down the chain, the difference would be more significant”, he added. An alliance would also mean exporting nations could offer more consistent supply, Smith said.