»The banana is a lady. She doesn’t like having wet feet.« Hector Bonnard Agronomist at Diana Food
Every single banana that the company, founded in 1961, processes comes from one of the plantations within a 60-kilometer radius of its location. About 25 % are organic – with that number quickly growing. The rest are grown under conventional agricultural practices. One of the organic farmers is Gary Mendieta, who runs one of his three comparably small farms in the mountains. Up to 1,500 plants grow on each of the eight hectares. He and his team of five are always busy. They cut off the plants’ large excess leaves, keep the ground cleared, protect the seed heads of the three- or four-meter-high plants with plastic bags that let in light and air but keep out insects and birds. Each plant location has two to three harvests a year. “We cut off the plant that bore fruit. Its daughter is growing next to it, and right here the granddaughter, which forms the next generation,” Mendieta explains.
A worker carefully cuts down the plant when the fruit is still green. A second catches the shoot, which can weigh up to 50 kilograms, on a piece of hard foam and carries it on their shoulder to the collection point. Here the fruits are washed and sorted. With a trained eye, a worker sorts out the bananas that don’t have the desired curve, size or that have spots. That applies to about 10 %. “Exporters to the fresh market want perfectly formed fruit,” said Hector Bonnard. “We only take those bananas for our site in Pasaje that aren’t suited for the fresh fruit market.” The agronomist has been working for Diana Food for two years. He and his colleagues visit the plantations every two weeks, advise the farmers and make sure that everything – from planting to fertilizing and weed and pest control all the way through to the harvesting and sorting of fruit – is done according to the company’s standards. In addition to supplying enough nutrients, irrigation also plays an important role. “The banana is a lady. She doesn’t like having wet feet,” Bonnard explains with a smile. That’s why water supply and drainage systems have to work perfectly.
The agricultural experts at Diana Food have a lot of experience in the industry. “And we have a very good relationship based on trust with the farmers,” says Bonnard. “At the same time, we set high standards and keep documentation so that we can trace the raw materials back to the plantation at any time.”