[[(||)]] Commoditus
November 2011 Commodity news and trends
Bananas


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Prices for bananas (and plaintains) have exploded upward in 2011, after having followed a gradual upward trend over the eight preceding years.

Even more important than their export role (which has made the banana the leading fruit in the United States, ahead of domestic American fruits such as apples), is the continuing importance of plaintains and bananas in the daily diet for the booming tropical economies of countries such as Brazil and India, both of which export very little of their large production.

Underlying developments in banana markets is the continuing threat to the Cavendish brand (virtually all of banana exports) from Tropical Race Four, the disease that is in Asia but has not yet made an impact in Latin and Central America. One factor slowing the spread of the disease in these areas is that substantial production is on small-holdings, multi-cropped with other plants, a practice which reduces the risk of disease. Bananas have a solid niche in the mid-tier of multi-crop holdings, between high feeders (such as coconut) and low feeders (such as vegetables).

The very strict climatic requirements for bananas, including the complete absence of frost during the 13-18 months from the sucker to production of the fruit, has led to a concentration of banana and plaintain production in a small group of tropical countries close to the Equator. This concentration of production in equatorial areas also means more-or-less continuous harvests year-round, although variations in the amount of rain means the sucker-to-female-flower interval can vary between 10-15 months - the 3 months from flower to fruit has less variation.

And, as one of the most popular and most perishable and fragile of tropical fruits, heavy reliance has been placed on large capital-intensive firms who can provide the care needed to bring the bananas to export markets in unbruised and ripe condition.



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