|CERES No. 074 (FAO Ceres, 1980, 50 p.)|
- diversification evident
Its skin is not the only slippery thing about the banana: production goes skidding from time to time under the influence of hurricanes and other meteorological accidents, and export prices soar in consequence; producers' receipts waltz on the frosted rink of exchange rates, and the more fragile economies find themselves tumbling down in the general slide.
Eighteen countries alone are responsible for four fifths of world production. Brazil is in the lead, with 16.7 percent of the total in 1978, followed by India with 10.4 percent. Then comes the Philippines which, in the space of ten years, has passed from eleventh to third place among world producers; then Ecuador, which, on the contrary, has seen its share drop sharply during the same period (6.4 percent of the total as against 9.4 in 1969-71). The other two spectacular breakthroughs are Thailand and Colombia, which each gained 1.5 percent of production. For the rest, although on the whole countries increased their production, they have done it more or less in the same proportions, so that their respective shares have hardly changed. Perhaps the only exceptions to this rule are Panama (-1.3 percent) and Honduras (-1.0).
It should be noted, however, that they are not all sliding to the same extent, and some even remain rather stable. Brazil, for example, and India, although foremost among world producers, export respectively only 2 percent and almost zero percent of their production. Among the eighteen big banana producers, Ecuador, Colombia, China, the Philippines and Angola export less than half their production. As for the others, if they cultivate and harvest bananas, it is mainly for export: Panama sells abroad 51 percent of its production, Guatemala 60 percent, Honduras 63, Ivory Coast 66, Nicaragua 73, Cameroon and these countries have to tackle is the constant pressure of rising costs, whereas no guaranteed increase in sale prices compensates them for the effects of this Somalia 81 each, Guadeloupe 83, Costa pressure. Obliged to increase productivity Rica 87, and Martinique (an absolute to re-establish the balance, exporting record) 90 percent. The major problem countries are ready to produce more, and this increased production in turn risks coming on the market just as prices fall.
Increase consumption? Easy to say, but not so easy to do: in its Agricultural Commodity Projections 1975-1985, FAO anticipates that, despite the fast and continued growth of banana importation expected from the USSR and Eastern Europe, world demand will slow down considerably. With the North American, European and Japanese markets almost saturated, and the newer ones of the Near East and North Africa now slowing down (+ 5 percent per year) as a result of already high consumption and a lack of commercial infrastructure capable of following up the expansion, the near future hardly encourages optimism.
While waiting for the desired adjustment of production and exportation objectives to fit the world market, for the quota system, of which there is much talk but no clear ideas on how it should be established, and for the international agreement on bananas, the producer countries are left with the possibility of diversifying their economy.
This is what two thirds of the biggest exporters have done, as can be seen from the table. Panama, Honduras and particularly Ecuador have succeeded in reducing to a considerable extent their dependence on the banana market. There are about ten in this situation, which does not prevent them from continuing to be big exporters of bananas: Ecuador, for example, remains the foremost world exporter. But it has simply increased its exports from other sectors even more. The Philippines and Colombia have slightly increased their dependence on bananas, but they can afford to do so without serious risk: their banana sales abroad never represent more than 3.1 and 2.2 percent of their total exports.
This leaves the French overseas departments, Martinique and Guadeloupe, already very dependent on this one product, and increasing their dependence still further.