The country known best for its coffee and flowers may have a ripe future in the production of bananas and plantains for export.
Colombia is best known for its export of coffee and flowers. However, the country is also a major exporter of bananas and plantains. Agriculture entrepreneurs on the northern coast of Colombia have realized great success growing and exporting bananas and plantains through the years.
The prolonged violence over the last half-century in Colombia resulted in a limited infrastructure for fresh produce distribution. It was often too costly, too risky, or too slow for agriculture producers to send their fresh produce harvests from the interior of the country to the ports on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. This is now starting to change in a positive direction.
In the northern part of Colombia in areas such as Uraba, Cartagena and Santa Marta, which are close to the coastal ports and have favorable growing conditions, fresh produce cultivation and exportation has been a feasible venture for some years.
One young entrepreneur, Juan Esteban Barrenche, has particularly activated production in the northern region.
Juan has converted his family's cattle plantation into a thriving plantain operation. Los Martillos is growing commercial conventional plantain on 200 hectares of property. There is a strong domestic demand for plantains from Colombian supermarkets, as well as international demand from commercializers who buy plantains at the farm and then export the product.
In 2017 Juan Esteban began exporting his own products to clients directly in England and France with great success. He is looking to expand his operation to 2,000 hectares in the coming years.
On my visit to the Los Martillos farm, I was impressed with the quality of labor, organization of operations, and the consistency of quality and output. The farm treated their workers like family, and everyone involved with the operation seemed to share a good energy and enthusiasm.
The Los Martillos property borders the Caribbean ocean shoreline and makes for one of the most beautiful locations for a plantain farm. Juan travels between his office in Medellin and Uraba, where the farm is located; however, he will tell you that his heart is in the countryside and on the farm. He enjoys spending as much time as possible on the farm with his family.
As food service providers—as well as consumers in the United States and Europe—learn more about the culinary versatility and health benefits of plantains, demand for this product has been quietly growing.
Plantains were once a culturally exclusive product enjoyed by Latin Americans and others who live in the tropics around the world. Today, I believe that the plantain has a huge future with non-Latin consumers who are beginning to learn about this wonderful fruit.
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