Banana group meets as markets expand and trade dispute takes centre stage

In 1995, Russians consumed 11 times more bananas than in 1992. Growing demand in eastern European countries and more recently in China for the world's most popular tropical fruit has permitted world banana trade to continue growing despite the levelling off of demand in many developed countries.

A Ghanaian farmer with the world's favourite tropical fruit

More than 11 million tonnes of bananas were exported worldwide in 1995, worth over US$5 billion, and FAO medium-term projections forecast that by 1999 this will have risen to well over 12 million tonnes. New Zealanders are expected to be the biggest banana-eaters, consuming more than 21 kg per person a year.

Bananas are a major cash crop, as well as a key food crop, for many developing countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. Ecuador, the world's largest banana exporter, shipped 3.7 million tonnes in 1995, worth US $846 million.

The Intergovernmental Group (IGG) on Bananas, the only international forum focusing on the fruit, meets at FAO Headquarters in Rome on 7 to 9 May, bringing together representatives from 75 nations to discuss major production, market and trade trends. Items on the agenda for the fifteenth session of this biennial meeting include:

  • current market situation and short-term and medium-term outlooks;
  • new and emerging markets, particularly in countries in transition and developing countries;
  • diversification of banana crops to increase income and reduce dependence on monocropping;
  • progress made by the Banana Improvement Project sponsored by the IGG, on research for new disease-resistant banana cultivars; and
  • the report of the International Consultation on Tropical Fruits held in Kuala Lumpur in July 1996.

The Group will also provide a forum for discussion of the international trade dispute related to the EC banana import regime, which favours African and Caribbean banana producers with preferential tariffs and quotas. The regime has been officially challenged by the United States, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. This is the first dispute to come before the new World Trade Organization and is seen as a landmark case which may set precedents for others that follow.

5 May 1997

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