A Nicaraguan company is planting banana trees that officials say will increase the country’s banana production 300%, with virtually their entire new crop headed for the U.S.
Bananas are a much sweeter deal than sugarcane, thus the switch. Piero Coen Montealegre, founder and president of the Coen Group, told the Nicaraguan newspaper El Nuevo Diario.
“The difference between the two crops is the same as there is between playing baseball in Nicaragua and playing in the major leagues — the banana is more profitable. The investment is much higher, but the gain is also much higher. If we produce 5,000 boxes per hectare, we can expect more than $1,000 dollars in profit per hectare,” the Coen Group founder told the newspaper.
Based in Chinandega, Nicaragua, the company began planting more than 3,700 new acres of bananas recently. There are 400 people working on the planting project, which includes 240,000 trees. The initiative will generate 7,000 new jobs for the area, according to Coen Group officials, quoted in El Nuevo Diario.
The first bananas from the expanded operation are expected to ship to the U.S. no later than Feb. 8, 2014.
“Due to the ports, it’s easier for us to send our products via Honduras, (which ships) to the U.S. Puerto Colon, in Costa Rica, sends shipments to Europe, but the port is too far away for us to use it,” Coen told the newspaper.
Traditionally one of the lowest Central American producers of bananas, Nicaragua has been growing about 2 million boxes of bananas annually. With the new acreage, Coen officials estimate the new total will be about 8 million boxes.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agriculture Service shows Nicaragua exported about 40,000 tons of bananas to the U.S. in 2012. The country sent similar quantities to the U.S. in 2011, 2010 and 2008, but in 2009 banana exports dropped to less than 28,000 tons for the U.S.