Panamanians, mostly those living in the capital, consume millions of bananas every year, and they are grown in the province of Bocas del Toro. The Atlantic Banana Cooperative (COBANA R.L.) alone sells a total of 104,000 boxes in the domestic market. These boxes weigh about 40 pounds each and contain from 104 to 110 bananas, which comes to a total sale of approximately 11,440,000 bananas.
Chito Quintero, director and member of COBANA R.L., said that exportation is the primary objective of the company, yet the domestic market is definitely a good alternative to sell second-rate bananas, which are an excellent quality product but do not meet requirements for the European market.
Although it costs the same to produce a banana for domestic consumption as for export, it costs less to send them to the domestic market because a different type of box is used and they are transported by truck. Boxes of bananas destined for export must first be sent in containers to the port of Limón in Costa Rica, and from there by ship to purchasing countries like England, Switzerland and Holland.
He added that the production cost per case for the cooperative in the port of Limón is on the order of $8.35; at its final destination, that same box of bananas can cost $16.00 or up to $18.00.
In European countries, a pound of the fruit, which is about three or four bananas, can cost up to $5.00.
Whereas in Panama the box sells for $7.50, and the pound can be priced at 35 cents or more in supermarkets and shops. COBANA, which was founded on Labor Day in 1992 with 74 founding members, now has 220 members, 500 hectares of plantations, 550 workers, another 2,800 people who depend on them, plus an additional 2,000 people who benefit indirectly.