Banana exports declined for the third consecutive year in 1997, falling to 33m boxes from 35.8m in 1996. The decline reflects continuing inroads in export markets by other producers, as well as frequent labour disputes. However, profitability is improving. Unit export values have been rising modestly in the past two years, by 6.2% in 1996 and 4.3% in 1997, while producers are benefiting from the gradual reduction in the export tax which began in 1996.
Banana exports 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 Volume: m boxes 38.4 41.0 38.3 35.8 33.0 Value: $ m 199.5 199.2 185.1 184.0 176.6 Source: MIPPE.
With the prospect of a more open market in the EU, the sector continues to attract investment. In January a new 20-year contract was signed with the Chiriqui Land Company (CLC), a subsidiary of the US company United Brands, to lease 27,262 ha of land in Bocas del Toro and Chiriqui Grande.