The European Union has historically favoured banana imports from Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries, including some former colonies of EU member states. African, Caribbean and Pacific countries can currently export up to 775000 tonnes of bananas to the EU each year duty free.
Since 1994, when the tariff quota system was created, Latin American banana producers have had to pay tariffs of €176 a tonne, a huge financial burden on importers and a cause of reduced banana plantations. The EU’s import regime has drawn condemnation and legal action from the WTO.
According to press reports, the new deal would resemble one struck last year under the auspices of the Doha trade talks, but subsequently withdrawn when the overall talks failed. That deal saw tariffs initially cut to €148 per tonne, with a further reductions over the next seven years to reach €114 a tonne by 2016.
Poorer ACP countries, for whom bananas form an important part of the economy, are to receive a development package as compensation to the tune of €200 bn, reports say.
Speaking to FoodNavigator.com after the Doha talks failure, Jorge Sauma Aguilar, CEO of Corbana (the Costa Rican banana producers association) called the implementation of the agreement “a moral matter”.
He said that the agreement had been a step in the right direction by Latin American countries – although well short of an ideal outcome that would have put them on a level playing field with ACP countries.
In February this year Latin American countries rejected an offer to lower the tariff to €114 by 2019, on the grounds that the Doha offer, with a 2016 deadline, was better.