Bananas are one of the most consumed and most traded fruits worldwide. It is the fifth most traded agricultural product and an important staple food with a major role in food security. Bananas constitute a significant proportion of the export revenues for many tropical countries, providing not only an essential source of income and employment for many households, but also a valuable source of nutrition and food security for more than 400 million people.
Managing the global banana supply chain is not an easy task. Delivering quality product to retailers depends on multiple moving parts and the collaboration of multiple parties from farm to market. There are also a number of resource-consuming elements required such as refrigeration, ripening centers, transportation, and distribution centers.
What are the key facts about bananas?
Just in the UK, the average person eats around 10kg of bananas per year, which means over five billion bananas are consumed every year.
If an average consumer is expected to live 75 years then they will eat approximately 7,500 bananas in their lifetime.
Increasing awareness of health issues is contributing to higher banana consumption, due to their nutritious, filling and convenient characteristics and highly competitive price.
Bananas are grown in more than 150 countries, and 113.5 million tons of the fruit are produced each year (2016).
Top banana producers are India (26%), China (12%), Indonesia and Brazil (6% each), although these countries keep the majority of their yield for domestic consumption.
Banana cultivation is often conducted by smallholder farmers and traded in the informal sector, which is often difficult to track and quantify.
70-80 % of banana production in Africa is of local varieties, mostly used for cooking, with significant importance in local food security.
The most exported banana variety is the Cavendish, and it has huge economic importance to many tropical countries and accounts for 43 million tons in the last year.
The standardization of the Cavendish production has allowed agribusinesses to grow bananas at a low
Logistics & ripening
After harvest, the fruit is washed, labeled and packaged at plants.
Most farms work directly under contract with a specific label that will later distribute the bananas in bulk to retailers around the globe.
Pallets of packaged bananas are transported under refrigeration (sea and land) and loaded into ‘forced-ripening’ centers at their final destination. The product sits in the temperature-controlled rooms for 5–7 days at a time.
Trade & retail
Ecuador, Guatemala and Costa Rica are the top players in banana exports, which account for just 15-20% of banana plants produced worldwide. Ecuador is responsible for 24.7% of the global exports.
Bananas account for roughly 75% of the tropical fruit traded.
The largest importer of bananas is the European Union (EU) reaching 5.8 million tons in 2017, with a volume share of 33%, and a growth rate of 7%. The main markets are the UK, France, Italy, and
The second largest importer is the United States of America with 4.59 million tons, a market share of 27%, and a growth rate of 5%.
In the UK a small number of supermarkets dominate the market and sell 80% of bananas, led by Tesco with over 30% of the sector, and closely followed by Asda/Wal Mart and Sainsbury’s (16% each) and lastly Morrisons (12%).
There are five big multinational trading companies, which engage in the production, purchase, transport, and marketing of bananas. These are Chiquita, Fresh Del Monte, Dole, Fyffes and Noboa.