The difference in food safety and environmental requirements, which are more demanding for European production, represent an unfair advantage for imports from third countries
Europeans eat 6.5 million tonnes of bananas and plantains per year. Of these, 700,000 tonnes come from the EU. But they have serious competition: 1.1 million tonnes come from Africa and 4.7 from Latin America.
European bananas are grown in the Canary Islands, whilst plantains come from Guadalupe and Martinique (France) and Madeira (Portugal), meeting all the EU regulations on the subject of social responsibility and environmental protection. Their economic importance in the outermost regions is considerable; the banana/plantain sector often is one of the largest private employees in these territories and therefore it contributes to the balance of rural life. However, they have to compete economically with plantains from countries that do not belong to the EU. The EU legislation is not applicable to these “third countries”, which can produce with fewer environmental and food and labour safety demands and therefore market them at a lower price. This is an important challenge for European producers.
At the latest Salón del Gourmet (Madrid), Sergio Cáceres, manager of the Association of Banana Producer Organisations of the Canaries, (Asprocan) and Karym Bagoee, coordinator the campaign and representative of the Association of plantain producers of Guadalupe and Martinique (UGPBAN), presented to the press the joint message that all imported bananas and plantains “must maintain the same criteria as those of the EU production.”
Cáceres used the example of the arrival of plantains or bananas with the Fair Trade label that can be used to catch the consumers’ attention. However, he recalled that for EU productions this is not possible because EU legislation includes standards above the conditions for what is considered fair trade.
Concern is growing amongst farmers from the RUP because these imports “do not stop growing” and the customs barriers continue to drop.
Bagoee, on the other hand, emphasised that “there are only three Member States (Spain, Portugal and France) with outermost regions and there is less awareness than if more countries were involved.”
RUP logo promotion
In order to spread information about sustainable growing methods in the source European regions and to strengthen the position of European bananas and plantains compared to those from Latin America and Africa, the banana producer organisations from the Canaries and plantains from Guadalupe, Martinique and Madeira have been cooperating for years in the APEB (Association of European Producers). Amongst other common initiatives is the campaign to spread the logo of the Outermost Regions of Europe (with a global budget of 3.37 million euros), which in 2019 is in its third year.
The RUP logo was created by the EU to increase the competitiveness of the outermost regions of the European Union, particularly against products from “third countries.” The label identifies the products of the RUP as high-quality produce of European origin. The bananas/plantains that carry the RUP stamp meet the EU regulations regarding social and environmental standards and sustainable production. They are grown using traditional methods, taking local biodiversity into account and they have 100% traceability. This means that they respond to the current consumer demands regarding healthy food, sustainable consumption and the awareness associated with these aspects.
Bananas from the Canary Islands: With 8,900 producers and an annual harvest of 400,000 tonnes, the Canary Islands, represented by the producer association, ASPROCAN, are the largest supplier of European bananas.
Plantains from Guadalupe and Martinique: The plantain producer association of Guadalupe and Martinique, UGPBAN, represents around 600 producers and 6000 employees, producing 270,000 tonnes annually in normal years.
Plantains from Madeira: 2,900 producers grow around 20,000 tonnes of plantains per year. They are represented by the producer organisation, GESBA.