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Local bananas passed up for imports spells ‘disaster’ for farmers

3. Local Bananapocalypse
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
AMMAN — It’s banana season, and a large number of farmers are complaining about their inability to sell their local produce in the face of competition from cheaper foreign imports.اضافة اعلان

The local banana is being squeezed out of the market by large quantities of imported produce.

Jordan News spoke to member and media spokesperson of the Jordan Valley Farmers Association, Muhammad Abu Tabikh, who said that farmers were promised protections for local produce four years ago.

He said local farmers supplied Jordan’s needs, which the Ministry of Agriculture said ranges between 200 to 250 tons of local bananas, while 50 tons of Ecuadorean bananas were imported. “This year, we were able to supply 300 tons of local bananas, compared to thousands of tons of Ecuadorian bananas that flooded the market this year. As a result the Jordanian farmer is losing out,” said Abu Tabikh.

“The Jordanian banana is one of the best types of bananas in the world,” said Abu Tabikh, adding that it was previously known the “rihawi’’ banana.
“However, people today and some media outlets distort our product’s reputation, claiming that the Ecuadorian banana is the best and least expensive, while they don’t know how much growing our bananas costs us,” he said.

Misrepresenting local produce

Abu Tabikh said the big problem is that local bananas are not even sold as such, but are labelled as Somali or Lebanese bananas. “The image of the local product is distorted, and the citizen avoids it,” he said.

Last year, he said that farmers distributed large quantities of bananas for free as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, an expected loss due to exceptional circumstances.

“This year the blame lies with the Agriculture Ministry, which issued many permits to traders to import bananas from abroad, which was the main reason the local bananas accumulated and remained unsold,” said Abu Tabikh, adding that Jordanian farmers suffered huge losses as a result.

As for the measures taken by farmers, he said they have resorted to the ministry, and the news media, but did not achieve any results. “When the (now former) agriculture minister was appointed, he appeared on (television) and said that he would flood the Jordanian market with bananas,” Abu Tabikh said.

“Flooding the market with bananas means the destruction of the local farmer, and the accumulation of debt by the farmer, which can only lead to imprisonment with no ability to pay those debts,” he added.

Huge banana surplus

The association’s spokesperson said that it is imperative that at the start of October markets are devoted only to local produce, as it is peak time for local bananas. While issuance of import permits for bananas stopped during this time, the problem was with the permits approved shortly before this date, as their products still fill the market.

In the Amman market alone, there are 180 tons of bananas, a city which consumes 60 percent of the quantity supplied, but this quantity constitutes a large surplus compared to the natural consumption of the population.

“During the pandemic period, everyone suffered from border closures, but local farmers were able to meet citizens’ needs for vegetables and fruits, mainly onions and potatoes, all at reasonable prices within everyone’s reach.

“People did not need imported products in large quantities then. The ministry and everyone should appreciate the efforts of our farmers, they really are the unknown soldiers of this country,” Abu Tabikh said.

He said that farmers demand the transfer of surplus imported produce that arrive in huge quantities to neighboring countries, and to make room in the market for local bananas — something that should have happened from the start.

‘Bananas on the roads’

“In the next 10 days, people will find large quantities of bananas on the roads, and I speak with great confidence, as I am aware of the huge quantities that have been imported,” Abu Tabikh said.

Asked about the difference in price between local bananas and Ecuadorian bananas, farmer Mustapha Obeid said: “The high prices of local bananas is not the farmer’s fault, but the high cost of cultivation. This includes the cost of fertilizers, agricultural tools, heavy machinery, labor costs, and the costs of storage, packaging and shipping to Amman and other governorates.”

He said that on top of this high cost, merchants raise their profit margins, which makes the customer think farmers are charging high prices for their produce.

Obaid said that the large amount of bananas that has accumulated is a “disaster”. “This is my livelihood, which is being destroyed, and I cannot save it in view of the high temperatures, which will cause these bananas to spoil faster. Who will bear these losses other than the farmer?” he asked.

Despite attempts by Jordan News to contact the official spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture, he was unavailable for comment. 

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