Niche markets ready for expansion
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CTA. 1998. Niche markets ready for expansion. Spore 74. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/49025
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore74.pdf
Europeans, particularily northern Europeans, increasingly consume organic produce. These consumers place a high value on organic farm products (fresh or processed) because no chemicals are used in their production. For many Europeans, the organic...
Europeans, particularily northern Europeans, increasingly consume organic produce. These consumers place a high value on organic farm products (fresh or processed) because no chemicals are used in their production. For many Europeans, the organic concept is a mark of quality and associated with 'healthy eating'. The demand for organic foods in Europe is real. Just as for the pineapple and orange industries, producers could diversify their export production by tapping into the fresh organic fruit market, despite the fact that it is not yet fully developed, by growing organic bananas. The Dominican Republic is cashing in on this trend and has already captured 80% of the organic banana market - the remaining 20% is shared by the Canary Islands, Colombia, Ghana and Israel. What are organic bananas? Organic Cavendish bananas are produced without chemical fertilizers, fungicides or pesticides. Production, packaging and shipping techniques have to comply with European standards set for organically-grown food products. These standards are applied and monitored through control operations carried out in banana plantations, at the processing, packaging and ripening stations (specific procedures) and in the importer's facilities. These Cavendish bananas have to be certified by a European authority or registered organization before they can be marketed in Europe under the 'organic product' label. Produce is transported through the same subsectors as utilized for non-organic bananas and reaches EU markets via the large northern European banana-import ports of Rotterdam (Netherlands), Antwerp and Zeebrugge (Belgium), and Hamburg (Germany). Getting in on the organic banana market Not all organic banana producers are fortunate enough to have plantations in regions such as Cape Verde, Guadeloupe or Martinique, which are ecologically ideal for growing organic bananas, or producers have no access to dry land or sugarcane fields. They are thus obliged to cultivate their crops in a traditional banana- growing zone which can, ironically, lead to a struggle with nature. How can the challenges of dealing with weeds, weevils, nematodes, Sigatoka and black leaf streak disease be met without recourse to chemical pesticides? Various techniques exist, such as the use of 'thermal' or steam weeding when sowing micropropagated plants in fields reclaimed through crop rotations, fallowing or systematic uprooting of old plants; or even trapping weevils through drip irrigation to hinder fungal development. These tactics are not always simple nor rapid: three cycles are needed to obtain sustainable production in an organic banana plantation (there must be sufficient foliage to supress weed growth) and reclaiming a banana plantation takes at least a year without growing any banana trees. Also, nearby cropfields must be considered, these should not be infested with pests, and water runoff has to be carefully monitored for chemicals. Taking up the challenge Productivity is not actually a problem when growing organic bananas. In comparison with traditional Cavendish bananas, organic varieties are more fragile at the fruit-bearing stage but show higher vegetative resistance. Organic bananas are not yet being cropped on a large scale. Organic banana production is still generally a small-scale undertaking. Special production and handling techniques are required for this crop, packaging and distribution systems are not yet completely professionalized, and marketing strategies are lacking. Consequently, organic bananas presented on fruit stands in specialized European shops sometimes are not visually appealing. Organic bananas do taste about the same as traditional Cavendish bananas, and they are purchased by discriminating customers (who consider that they are better tasting because of their lower moisture content and firmer texture), for prices that range from 30% to 40% higher than average. The industry should now strive to win over another clientele, one that does not equate organic with unattractive and expensive. Marketing promotion of this product should stress its competitive potential in terms of volume, quality and price. Meeting industrial, environmental and social standards The market for organic bananas is currently volatile because of poor trade and monetary flows. Only a few tens of thousands of tonnes are being traded on this narrow market. The core of the clientele is in northern Europe, in a market run by highly specialized leading operators. There is substantial growth potential for this market, but quality standards similar to those of traditional export bananas will have to be applied throughout the subsector - from producers to consumers. This has been the thrust of research carried out in the Cape Verde archipelago (see box). Fair-trade bananas offer another possibility for diversification. They are bananas that can be produced using environmentaly friendly techniques similar to those used to produce organic bananas, but the production restrictions are not quite as drastic and some pesticides can be used. The non-nematode bearing volcanic soils found in the West Indies and Guadeloupe are especially suitable for this crop. In addition, a critical social requirement must be met before these bananas qualify for the fair-trade label, which can only be assigned to a product after certifying that no employees were unfairly exploited during any production phase (human respect, social insurance, sanitation, adequate salaries, etc.). Fair-trade bananas fall within the same category as certain silk shirts that customers know have not been manufactured by child-labourers, political prisoners or any other oppressed peoples. An ethical issue that deserves to be followed... (see also Spore 67, page 5). Sources: CIRAD-FLHOR, parc scientifique Agropolis, 34397 Montpellier cedex 5 - France. International Network for the Improvement of Bananas and Plantains (Inibap), parc scientifique Agropolis, 34397 Montpellier cedex 5 - France. Fax: (33) 4 67 61 03 34. SA Bonneterre (trader in organic fruit and vegetables), 1, place des Planteurs, 94150 Rungis - France. Fax: (33) 1 46 87 91 68. Revue FruiTrop No 40 12, square Pétrarque, 75116 Paris - France. Fax: (33) 1 53 70 21 70. Infomusa, vol. 3, No 2, December 1994. Inibap. Banane, délicieuse inconnue, le livre de la Plantation Grand Café - Belair. Route de Belair, 97130 Capesterre Sainte-Marie, Guadeloupe - FRANCE. Fax: 05 90 86 91 69.