Eric de Lucy, President of UGPBAN (Union grouping banana producers in Guadeloupe and Martinique) states that “we have the world’s cleanest and most environmentally friendly banana." He says that "they are at -50% in pesticides” between 2008-2013 and socially, when they pay a €15 salary, an Ecuadorian pays €1.
To keep up with the trend of economic patriotism, the French sector has decided to add a red, white and blue label to some of the fruits as of October. These labels are signs of origin, alongside the ‘banana of Guadeloupe and Martinique’ sticker. This should allow employment of 160 personnel in Dunkerque Port.
French producers are keen to differentiate from Chiquita and other South American or African bananas.
Recognising that their pesticide usage was extremely high, they halved it in 5 years. To do this they dropped the monoculture system and opted for crop rotation. They added habitats for certain organisms. No insecticide is sprayed on French bananas and the use of weed killer has drastically decreased. According to figures supplied by the producers, 6 kilos of herbicide is used per hectare per year in the French West Indies. Meanwhile Belize or Costa Rica use 70 kilos over the same surface and time span.
As bananas are mainly produced in humid, tropical regions, they are vulnerable to fungal attack. The upsurge of Panama disease is threatening global production. For the time being the disease has not crossed the Atlantic and remains in the Middle East and Africa, though the FAO raised an alarm last April. However, Black Sigatoka is currently upsetting production in the Antilles. This requires ten or so treatments every year, but farmers are also used to removing the affected leaves in order to reduce the amount passed on every year. However, Jean-Michel Risede, a researcher for CIRAD (the Centre for Agricultural Research for Developing Countries) says that in South America, “they systematically carry out a treatment once or twice a week, between 40 to 90 per year.”
Strengthened by their development, the producers are starting out on their second sustainable banana programme. The aim is to continue on the tracks of agro-ecology and find new, disease-resistant varieties. This is important research at a time when only one variety - the Cavendish - is produced on at least half of the world’s banana plantations. This lack of diversity is an enormous threat should disease hit all production zones, as is the risk today with Panama disease. Fresh Plaza