Banana growers in Hon-duras have been left struggling by both recent storms that wrecked dev-astation across the region – and a lack of government support to get back up and running.
Almost 2,000 hectares that once produced the fruit are now lying idle following the Eta and Iota storms.
The 13 companies that worked the land have been unable to secure finance and have been forced to make 5,000 workers redundant.
The shut down has had major economic consequences in the area, with Santa Cruz de Yojoa, La Lima, Santa Rita, El Progreso, Pimienta, Villanueva, San Manuel, and Potrerillos all struggling in the past two years.
Elvin Melendez, president of the Llano Agricultural Company, said local banks would not supply finances to banana farmers, while the government will not offer guarantees to foreign investors.
“It’s a serious situation. We’ve been unable to recover because we have not found financing in private banking,” he said. “The banks are outraged when they find out we need resources to grow bananas.
“Israel has a project called Green 2000 and they want to invest €175 million in nine projects in Honduras.
“They want to invest €35 million in bananas to help these farms that are at zero.
“That money is there, but neither the previous nor the current government has supported us as a guarantee so it reaches the country.”
The Israeli finance would allow farmers to pay back the loans at just a one per cent interest rate over a 15-20 year period – a better deal than any of the national banks could offer.
Mr Melendez said appeals to the government for support had fallen on deaf ears.
As time passes, the chances of reactivating the farms becomes much lower, he stressed.
Pablo Contreras, a partner at Compañía Agricola Barranco, said: “We urgently need support. The prices of agricultural inputs have risen too much in two years, the balers are abandoned and they deteriorate by the day.
“The past government and this government have not given this the importance they should.
“We had 1,100 employees and 5,500 people depended economically on them.”
Meanwhile, banana producer Fy-
ffes has launched a gender equality programme on its farms in Honduras.
Along with its subsidiary Sol Group, a melon producer in Honduras, it wants to address gender inequality in the country, and particularly in agriculture.
The initiative, named HERproject with an internet resource titled HERessentials, aims to train men and women working at Sol Honduras on gender and related issues such as health, home finances, interpersonal re-lationships and stress management.
Michael Fletes, Sustainability Co-ordinator at Sol Honduras, said: “Since its inception in Honduras, 959 field workers and pack house workers have been trained on the HERessentials programme, including seasonal workers, super-
visors, managers and administrative employees.
“The experience has been enriching as we have brought technology closer to people, pro-vided a safe space to address their work concerns, including gender issues, and learned about the challenges faced by our people as well as the community needs.”
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.