Colombia’s banana production increased by 13.2 per cent in both volume and value in 2015 according to figures released by the country’s producer association Augura.

The association’s president Juan Camilo Restrepo Gómez said 94m boxes of the fruit were shipped last year compared with 83m boxes in 2014. The export value rose to US$836m compared with US$738m in the previous year.

“The European Union remains the main destination with 73 per cent of the export volume, followed by the US with 18 per cent and other countries with 9 per cent,” he said.

Restrepo said the improved exchange rate had generated better returns for producers and helped slow the loss of productivity, meaning they could invest more in renewing plantations and improving infrastructure.

“We hope that this behaviour will remain in order to reverse the bad economic conditions of our producers who were hit hard by the revaluation of the peso,” he said.

During a meeting with president Juan Manuel Santos that took place during Augura’s general assembly, Restrepo has on the government to invest in irrigation and drainage projects to help improve the sector’s productivity.

He said 2016 was the year of improvement for the banana sector, in which it would seek to overcome the negative effects left by El Niño and export at least 90m boxes of bananas, but ideally more than 2015’s export total of 94m boxes.

In addition, he said the industry plans to consolidate the creation of more than 20,000 direct jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs generated by the industry in Magdalena, La Guajira and Urabá.