Asia: The future of Colombian fresh fruit exports Organic bananas, 20 years in Asia and still a long way to go

Asia: The future of Colombian fresh fruit exports Organic bananas, 20 years in Asia and still a long way to go


By: David Rincon, Managing Director Daabon Japan

DAABON Organic Japan (DOJ) has been exporting organic bananas to Japan since 2001, and today we have the privilege of being one of the leading companies in the organic bananas business in Japan.

Our retail partners work passionately to position our produce in the high end of the segment through quality and fair-trade commerce. This success is thanks to the hard work and commitment of all participants in the supply chain, our trusted partners and customers.

Over the past ten years Japan has worked towards establishing free trade agreements with several South American nations. We look forward to the successful outcome of the negotiations between Japan and Colombia on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in 2021. The EPA will be critical and could boost our competitive position.

Looking across the region, South Korea represents a different set of challenges. Since 2016, South Korea and Colombia signed and executed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The FTA provides a competitive edge for our business by reducing import tax to zero. Therefore, by 2019 DOJ had reintroduced organic bananas in collaboration with a major local fresh food retailer. DOJ is one of the six Colombian exporters to South Korea and the only one supplying organic bananas in this market. However, the last 12 months have been challenging as longer transit times, increasing quality requirements and the uncertainties in maritime logistics throughout 2020, have tested the resilience of the business.

In addition to consolidating its position in the organic banana business in Japan and South Korea, DOJ is trying to introduce its fresh fruit business to a third country in the region; China. Considering that China already allows Colombian banana imports, but that no Colombian company has managed to establish successful recurrent volumes, there is a gap in the market that DOJ is attempting to fill. The task will not be an easy one, as Asian retailers demand fresh fruits with perfect cosmetic conditions. If, however, the demands are successfully met, millions of Asian consumers are willing to pay premium prices for beautiful organic fresh fruits.

Organic Mountain’s “wild” Hass Avocado project

One of the most ambitious projects in the fresh produce space for DAABON Organic Japan (DOJ) over the next two years will be to deploy a perfectly structured, export oriented and highly differentiated organic Hass avocado production. “Tolima” farm, in the foothills of the grand Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, hosts 23 hectares of this rare product, well over 1,000 metres above sea level. There is enough capacity to more than triple the acreage planted, so this is just the beginning.

Investments took place in 2020 intended to provide irrigation to the orchards as well as the construction of a modern classification and packing facility, intended to comply with the strict phytosanitary protocols agreed between Colombia, Korea, the EU and other regions. The classification and packing facility can also provide its capacity to external avocado parties, as well as processing other types of fresh fruits, such as Persian lime.

By integrating all the blocks in the chain: agriculture, modern classification and packing, multi-modal logistics, aggressive marketing and sales efforts leveraged by DAABON’s global network, we should be in a position to become a world class player in the organic avocado industry.

2021 will be the year to introduce our organic Hass avocado to Japan and, hopefully, South Korea (if the corresponding phytosanitary protocol is agreed with the latter). Colombia also has an agreement in place with China, but it requires specific adjustments to make it practical. In Japan, after several failed attempts and lots of raised expectations, there is no excuse not to offer the differentiated taste of Colombian Hass avocado in this sophisticated and highly competitive market.