Peru is working on establishing phytosanitary protocols for the import of banana plants from Brazil.
The Andean country, which is expecting its biggest organic banana production this campaign, is seeking new banana varieties amid concerns over the potential entry of Panama disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4).
"To date, the TR4 has only been reported in Asia, Oceania and Africa," INIA Peru researcher Juan Carlos Rojas told Fresh Fruit Portal.
He said that Brazil has 70% of its area planted with the Pomme subgroup - which includes the varieties Pacovan, Prata and Prata Anã (AAB), while Peru works the TR4-susceptible Cavendish subgroup, which includes Valery, Williams and Lakatan, he said.
Peru's dependence on Cavendish varieties means the industry would suffer greatly if the disease entered.
The country, which exports mostly Cavendish bananas to the European, Asian and U.S. markets, has been working to increase shipments to the U.S., whose main organic banana supplier is currently Guatemala.
"There is an interest, and some tests have already been done to send local varieties [to different markets] such as Banana Bizcochito, also known as Orito, from the Peruvian jungle. There is also interest in developing areas of organic Harton banana production for export”, said Rojas.
"Another local variety that is consumed a lot in the country is the Isla Banana, which, due to its organoleptic characteristics could be interesting for niche markets abroad that seek new exotic products."
The commercial dynamic in demand over recent years has been much more active, he said.
"The international market is requesting more diversity, quality, volume and, above all, social and environmental responsibility," he said.
In Peru, the challenges of the industry are centered on the need to seek new niche markets and to begin to diversify varieties, new packaging and to strengthen the image of responsible and eco-friendly producers.
Part of the work involves strengthening existing exports, as well as seeking new niches in other Latin American countries.
"Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay demand bananas, and because of our geographical location we could be a supply like Ecuador," said Rojas.