MEPs vote to protect European banana growers from imports

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags European union Eu

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) gave the green light to measures aimed at protecting European banana producers from import surges last week as one of the biggest global producers, Ecuador, signed up for more trade with the EU.  

The safeguards come as Ecuador last month joined an EU trade agreement, already in place between the EU and Colombia and Peru. In addition to banana exports, the trade deal gives Ecuador improved access to the EU for fish, cut flowers, coffee, cocoa, fruits and nuts. 

French MEP and draft bill rapporteur Marielle de Sarnez said before the vote: “Ecuador’s accession to the trade agreement with Colombia and Peru has a significant impact on EU banana producers. It might possibly destabilise a sector which plays an essential role in the outermost regions and is responsible for 37,000 jobs. It is therefore very important that our producers be better protected."

Europe’s domestic banana production comes from producers in Spain (Canary Islands), Portugal (Madeira and Azores), Cyprus and Greece, as well as the French overseas territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Together, these growers account for around 11% of EU demand for bananas.

“From now on, they will be better informed and more involved in monitoring the market. Also, the Commission will have a legal obligation to act if there is a surge in imports. By adopting this text, we are actively helping our outermost regions, so important for our Union,” ​added de Sarnez.

Going bananas

Bananas are mostly eaten fresh but have found their way into some recent product launches in Europe, such as UK start-up ChicP's banana and cocoa hummus​. ​Brazilian researchers have also identified green banana flour​ as a promising ingredient for gluten-free pasta formulations. 

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© iStock

The temporary stabilisation mechanism enables preferences to be suspended once an annual threshold is reached. There will also be an early warning system, which is triggered when import volumes reach 80% of the threshold. If this happens, the EU Commission will have to alert Parliament and the Council, improving on a similar mechanism which was in place between the EU and Columbia and Peru.

The Commission will review the situation in two years and extend the protective measures if the situation for European producers worsens.

Approved by 544 votes to 78, with 21 abstentions, the rules will come into force once they have been formally approved by the Council.

In order to gain access to the trade deal Ecuador had to present the European Parliament with an action plan on how it would tackle issues such as labour rights, deforestation and the protection of indigenous peoples.

The banana industry is worth an estimated $8 billion (€7.1 bn) a year, according to Stanford University researchers.

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)​,​ India and China top the table in world banana production, producing around 26% of the worldwide crop of 139 million metric tonnes.

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