Nicaragua Table of Contents
Unlike in other Central American countries, political squabbles over who would control the plantations and shipment of the crop prevented bananas from becoming the major export earner in Nicaragua. Bananas, a native fruit of tropical Asia, were introduced to Nicaragua early in the colonial period. Initially, until a market for them appeared in the United States in the 1860s, bananas, like other fruit, were destined mostly for local consumption. Small plots of the Gros Michael variety of banana were planted for export, but political turmoil and difficulties in establishing secure transportation routes hampered export. Because United States companies developed banana production in neighboring countries, Nicaragua's large potential for this crop remained underdeveloped.
Politics and outbreaks of disease in the 1900s kept banana production low. During their time in power, the Somoza family, who had discovered that coffee and cattle were more profitable, than bananas, refused to give United States banana companies the free rein that they enjoyed throughout the rest of Central America. In addition, an outbreak of Panama disease, a fungus that kills the plant's underground stem, wiped out most of the banana plantations in the early 1900s. New plants of the Valery and Giant Cavendish variety were planted, but constant use of fungicides was required to control black sigatoka disease. Although Cavendish bananas yield three times the harvest of the older Gros Michael type, Cavendish bananas are more difficult to harvest and transport, Cavendish bananas, for example, bruise easily and must be picked at an earlier stage and crated in the fields for transport. Most banana production is in the Pacific lowlands, in a region extending north from Lago de Managua to the Golfo de Fonseca. In 1989, banana production amounted to 132,000 tons.
Data as of December 1993