Panamanian labour minister Reynaldo Rivera has surprised the banana sector in his central American country by saying the trade is “especially delicate” and that producers should look to other crops.

The minister said that banana production in Latin America is going through a difficult time as the country is having to turn to export markets further away, especially in Europe. He pointed out that there are other producer countries growing the fruit closer to their destination markets.

“If I were a banana grower at the moment, and I had the opportunity to grow another food crop that offered greater security and that was less at the mercy of the ups and downs of market forces and the costs of production, I would lean towards growing something else,” he said.

Rivera was speaking as he met workers on independent banana plantations from Divalá in Chiriquí. The workers had invited the minister to meet them.