Farmers in Crete of Greece are growing bananas in small scale

crete banana sold in athens

“Cretan bananas are a unique product in Greece. Until recently, about 80% of the production was directed to the local market in Crete. Now we are expanding to markets in Athens (capital of Greece).” said in an interview to AgroTypos Mr. George Lykakis, a banana producer from Arvi of the Municipality of Viannos in Crete island. Crete is an island at the southern tip of Greece. “The production is small and it is not worthwhile to sell it to restaurants and hotels, since it would have to compete with imported produce. So we are trying to sell either to cooperatives or individuals in public markets. At this time the producer price in Crete is around € 1.20 to 1.30 per kilo. The economic crisis has no impact to the Cretan banana.” He added: “My village is the first area in Greece where banana was cultivated. Since the early of 1930s the first banana plantations took place in the area of Arvi of Viannos. Bananas were transported by animals (donkeys and mules) to Viannos, from there by truck to Heraklion and then by ferry to Athens. Today the main banana cultivation areas on the island are Arvi, Sitia and Malia, few hectares are cultivated in Sfakaki area of Rethymno. Cucumbers (mainly for export), bananas, outdoor tomatoes, eggplants and peppers are grown in Viannos area. Bananas are cultivated both outdoors and in greenhouses. I cultivate in a greenhouse of about 0.5 hectares (5 acres). We plant about 2,000 banana plants per hectare. From the moment that a banana plant is planted on the ground it takes about 14 months till harvest. Each plant produces about 10-50 pounds of bananas. I am going to plant in mid-September and expect to harvest about 14 months later. Cultivation cost is not so high as in the early vegetables. But it has great water needs (80% humidity), so it is easier banana to be cultivated in greenhouses, where higher yields and bananas of larger size are produced. Each tree produces a “grape” with bananas, which is cut as a whole and placed on pallets (12 “grapes” are placed in each palette) and then are transferred to Athens by boat. The Cretan banana is the freshest in Greek market because it is harvested gradually and in just five days is being transferred from the field to the market. Most volumes are sold through the Banana Cooperative (about 80% of the total). The remaining producers sell their bananas either to vegetable markets or to the weekly public markets. After transport, bananas of good quality can be sold in street markets of Athens for € 2.2 to 2.5 per kilo. A great effort has been made to penetrate not only in the Athens market, but also in other major Greek cities. Bananas may generate less revenue to producers compared with other products (like early vegetables) but have greater stability. This has led many local producers to switch to banana cultivation.”

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