Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Banana Problematic

The Banana Problematic
Since inception, the banana industry in the Western Hemisphere has been an early example of globalization.

The industry was shaped by the requirements of the fruit itself, some of which do not differ very much from those of other fresh fruits or vegetable commodities.

Other aspects of the industry were unique, however presenting problem to those who sought to grow and market the fruit.

The banana is highly perishable, with just a short period of time between its edible maturation point and the time of spoilage.

Thus, timing is of the utmost importance to the banana industry.

It is essential to harvest the still ripening fruit, transport it to a port facility, load it onto a ship, carry it to markets, complete the ripening process, and transfer it to wholesales and local retailers in a coordinated manner.

The span of time from harvest to consumption is only four to five weeks, during which the banana may have to travel up to fifteen hundred miles by land and form two thousand to six thousand miles by water to reach it market, where its retail shelf life will be no more than five days.

While most major market regions lie in the temperate zones of the world, cultivation of the banana is limited to tropical or subtropical areas that have warm rear round temperature and receive at least sixty inches of rainfall annually.

Therefore the geography of banana production and consumption is determined by the fruit’s need for high levels of efficient organization.

This can take a variety of form. But one thing has always been clear with bananas: it is virtually impossible for independent farmers, operating alone, to exercise sufficient control to ensure the eventual timely delivery of the fruit to the market.

At a minimum, some form of association is needed, if not one or more corporate structures.

This reality contributed to the emergence of the so-called Banana Empire.

The process that ultimately brings bananas into consumers kitchens requires numerous inputs, many especially designed facilities, and an institutional framework.

At a minimum the input needed include plant stock, land, labor, capital, fertilizer, pest control mechanisms and cartons.

The latter three are most affordable when purchased in bulk, which encourages the formation of associations in areas where small scale framing is the norm.

Infrastructure requirements include packing facilities on or near the cultivation site, roads or railroads to link farms to seaports, ships with refrigerated chambers during international voyage.

Institutional needs include agricultural credit, disaster relief, marketing, and research systems, all of which are instrumentals in helping farmers sell their produce, ensuring the survival of the industry.

The research needed to improve pest control technologies and develop disease resistant fruit varieties is also beyond the capacity of individual farmers.

Thus, the production and marketing of bananas is a complex affair.

It requires a coordinated organization framework that links cultivation areas in tropical regions with consumers mostly living in the temperature climate zone.
The Banana Problematic

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