The Canary Islands are the main producer of plantains and bananas in the European Union. And the south of Tenerife is one of the regions that contributes the most to maintaining this situation. It faces, however, an uncertain future due to the slim profit margins and even losses under which farmers survive. The banana could disappear completely from the landscape.
In the period 2023-2027, the sector will receive 141.1 million euros per year within an aid system calculated based on a cost scenario between 2001 and 2005, according to the secretary of the Coplacsil cooperative (from the La area Estrella-Guaza, Arona), Dionisio Rocha, who is also president of the Las Galletas Irrigation Community. A total of 112 members belong to this organization.
It must be taken into account that 10% of the total banana in Tenerife is produced in Arona. The South reaches 17% if Guía de Isora is added and 25% taking into account the entire region. There are 30 million kilos in an area of 1,000 hectares. Between the sea and the TF-1 highway. One of the few activities that remain outside of tourism.
“The European Union has been providing aid of 140 million euros a year for two decades to make banana production profitable,” explains Dionisio Rocha, who defends that “the figure is out of date and the situation has worsened after the worst summer in a long time.” . The sector began its community adventure thirty years ago. We demand a fair price to be able to live off the fruit of our work,” he claims.
“The 2023 aid was set with parameters from 2001 to 2005, when the minimum wage was around 450 euros, while now it is 1,080 euros. An increase of more than 130%. The cost of cardboard boxes, energy, water, transportation has risen,” he emphasizes. The CPI, the official index used in Spain to set price increases, has increased 64% since 2001.
And to this we must add climate change, higher temperatures and the resulting overproduction. If the banana cycle was 12 months, “it has become 10 months. We produce much more than before, which threatens to sink prices. Right now we are selling at 80 cents per kilo, which leaves us with a margin of 35 cents for the farmer. “That creates a real difficulty for us to live,” adds Rocha. “We have to be able to sell at a higher price and I firmly believe in going abroad,” he predicts about the future.
Overproduction of 22 million kilos
The reality is that the so-called pica, the production surplus, has reached 22 million kilos in the first 43 weeks of the year. A record. “Pica cannot be stored in chambers to wait for prices to improve, as happens with other products,” says the secretary of Coplacsil, for whom this surplus is a consequence of the facilities that climate change is giving to production.
This being the case, Dionisio Rocha considers that “our descendants will not be able to live off the common effort that we, our parents and grandparents, have made so that the Canary Islands are not a desert or a suburb without scenic or economic attractiveness.”