( Courtesy Organics Unlimited )

Good weather in South America has compensated for cool temperatures in Mexico to stabilize banana volume for the North American market heading into spring, marketers say.

“Supply is pretty good for us, and we don’t have any problems,” said Angelica Hicks, banana category lead at West Bridgewater, Mass.-based Oke USA Fruit Co./Equal Exchange Produce. 

“Now, volumes have been pretty steady. We are in the rainy season in Ecuador and almost there in Peru.”
Temperature has been a bit of an issue along the central west coast of Mexico, from where San Francisco-based Earl’s Organic Produce sources Mexican bananas, said Rodrigo Velasquez, banana specialist. 

“Below-normal” temperatures have cut into volumes from Mexico, Velasquez said.

“That has affected the growth and yield and slowing down production — bananas like warm days and warm nights and sun,” he said.

That was just a temporary blip, however, he said, and volume was expected to pick up in the second half of March.

“Luckily for us, the Ecuadorian and Peruvian organic production of bananas has been very steady,” he said. “It helps that it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere. The logistics have been very good; we haven’t had any problems with boats and all ports are working.” 

On the other hand, the fruit coming out of Ecuador and Peru “has been particularly good,” Velasquez said.

“Very good quality, good condition, very sweet,” he said.

Lower volume out of Mexico has boosted the market, particularly on organic bananas, Velasquez said.

There’s a seasonal issue, too, said Mayra Velazquez de Leon, president and CEO of San Diego-based Organics Unlimited Inc.

“Winter months affect volume on bananas,” she said. “Overall, production out of Mexico slowed down, especially in the area of Colima, which is experiencing cooler weather than usual and caused fruit to delay harvest.”

Volumes likely would increase by mid- to late March, she said.

“We should expect this to keep going for a few more weeks and then slowly getting back to normal volume,” she said. 

Other banana-producing countries, such as Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica, also were experiencing a shortage, Velazquez de Leon said.

Longer-term, volume projections looked good, said Bil Goldfield, director of corporate communications with Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole Food Co.

“The current outlook for Dole banana supply looks good throughout 2020,” he said. “Dole has one of the most robust shipping and logistics systems in the world, with a diverse range of growing locations that allow us to provide quality bananas year-round, regardless of weather conditions. Dole harvests bananas throughout Latin America, including Costa Rica, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Ecuador.”

The market for bananas was “strong”, he noted March 5.

For Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce Inc., banana volumes have followed a “traditional supply curve,” said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing.

“We have been seeing good demand levels since the beginning of the year,” he said. 

“Pricing for both green and yellow open-market fruit has been consistent with previous seasons. However, pricing continues to lag behind escalating costs. Bananas remain one of the lowest-priced healthy fruit and snacks in retail.”

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