Where to find Del Monte
The north of Minas Gerais state has become the center of banana growing and the leading banana producer in the State, responsible for more that 50% of production. Força do Campo talked about this important sector with the coordinator of the State Fruit-growing Program of the Research Facility for Agriculture in Minas Gerais (Epamig), Maria Geralda Vilela Rodrigues. The doctor in agronomy is from Itaguara in Minas and researches into banana growing and the nutrition of tropical fruits. She is the coordinator of the 8th meeting of the Brazilian Symposium on Banana Growing (Sibanana) that this week, brings together the supply chain sector in Montes Claros. She recognizes that the meeting comes at a difficult time for the national economy, but the industry can respond with negotiations, agreements, partnerships and unity.
Formerly, Brazil was placed first in the ranking as the country with largest banana production area. It is currently the third largest producer in the world. What is the country’s main contribution to this global banana growing scenario?
Brazil exports very little of its production as it has a large domestic market. We are one of the biggest consumers of the fresh fruit. The fruit produced in Brazil has a high nutritional and sensory quality, but we still need to improve the visual aspect, a very important feature when thinking about export. Several successful export initiatives have been made. In 2015, it is estimated that the banana harvest will produce more than seven million tons, most of which is to supply the domestic market. Bananas are grown in all Brazilian states, with an important socioeconomic contribution to the country, generating 1.3 million jobs.
What is the participation of Minas Gerais in the Brazilian banana production?
It is the third largest producing state. Production is concentrated in the southern and northern regions of the State. In the South dry farming predominates, whereas in the North, irrigated fruit growing is the norm and is the main generator of jobs in the region. The North of Minas Gerais accounts for over 50% of the state’s production. Of the 15 major banana producing municipalities in Minas, eight are in the North. Because the state has a large territory, with a diversity of climate and soil, cultivation techniques should be regionalized to succeed.
How has research contributed to the strengthening of the sector?
Agricultural research in Minas Gerais has played a key in transforming the North of Minas Gerais into a center for banana production; it is the leader in the state’s production and one of the largest in the country. Since the 1970s, Epamig has worked in research and the transfer of technological information to the sector. In 1979, the company implemented the first experiment with irrigated bananas in the region. Since then, along with other partner institutions, our research has generated production and management technologies.
What are the main research challenges for banana growing?
Bananas are a water intensive crop, so in this scenario of water scarcity, developing technologies that allow the cultivation of high-quality, economically viable bananas with minimal water use is a major research challenge. Especially in the north of the state, where production is 100% irrigated. These technologies include irrigation engineering, irrigation systems and their management, crop and soil cover management, and genetic improvements, among others. Another major challenge for banana growing in Northern Minas is Panama disease, which is responsible for the reduction of some areas of Dwarf Lady Finger cultivation, the most widely grown variety in the region that is susceptible to the disease. Better conservation of the fruit post-harvest, to enable the fruit to be marketed in distant markets is another major challenge for research.
Source: Hoje em Dia