Colombian storm damage threatens already vulnerable industry

e-mail icon

On 9th July, strong winds and heavy rain affected some 16000 hectares of export bananas and 2 500 hectares of plantains in the Uraba region of Northern Colombia. According to the Banana Producers' Association, Augura, 4500 hectares of bananas and 1000 hectares of plantains were completely destroyed.

The damage was not just economic. 1600 houses were also destroyed or damaged, many of them belonging to banana workers or small-scale plantain farmers. Following a visit to the affected region by Agriculture Minister Rubén Lizzarralde, the Government promised to put together a compensation package.

It is also estimated that the loss of some five million boxes of bananas over the next 6 months threatens the jobs of around 3000 workers whilst crops recover or are replanted.

This comes at a particularly difficult time for the Colombian industry: a combination of El Niño related climatic events, poor peso-dollar exchange rates and pressure from international markets have led to production problems.  "The storm has hit the efforts by the trade union and plantation owners to face up to a mounting crisis", said Sintrainagro trade union president, Guillermo Rivera. He explained to the press that "the lack of resources to fertilise the crop has reduced productivity and workers are earning less as a result. Some 2500 jobs have been lost with the closure of 10 plantations and another 20 face the same fate."

Sources: Sintrainagro, Apartadó ; El Colombiano, Medellin, 10/07 and 12/07.