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How Do We Have Bananas Year-Round?

Bananas are the fourth largest export in the world with the global population consuming over 50 billion tons year-round. The United States is the driving force behind this popularity, importing more than twice the amount of any other country. 4.14 million tons of fresh bananas ship to America each year. Despite the handfuls of taxes and regulations on importing food products from overseas, shipping bananas to America is much easier year-round than many other food products. While there is such a high demand for this fruit, bananas ship year-round in mass supplies to meet the needs of their consumers.

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Bananas Grow Year-Round

Unlike other fruits, bananas are grown and harvested year-round because production areas are located in tropical and subtropical areas. While these plants can live up to 25 years if kept properly, they only produce fruit once in their lifespan. The single occurrence of fruit grown on the plant can produce up to 10 bunches depending on the size of the plant. Each bunch can carry up to 20 bananas together. Plantations hold hundreds of thousands of banana plants at each location with each plant producing 200+ bananas yearly adding up to nearly 105 million tons of bananas overall.

Where Do Bananas Grow?

Native banana plants and commercial banana plantations are mostly developed in tropical regions 30 degrees north and south of the equator. Bananas are typically found in South and Central America, Asia, and Africa. Countries along the equator like Guatemala, Ecuador, and Costa Rica are some of the main producers. Where heat and humidity are consistent throughout the year, the production rate will be steady. The United States does grow bananas, but production remains low as growing conditions are scarce. Hawaii and Florida are the main banana producers in the United States with an estimated 16,000 acres used to grow these fruits. The bananas that grow here are of the Cavendish variety as well as the Hawaiian apple banana. These crops are mainly sold in the local markets due to high labor costs.

Bananas Sold Year-Round In Grocery Stores

Since bananas don’t have a specific growing season and are continuously shipping overseas, they can be found in grocery stores throughout the year. The United States is the largest importer of bananas, ensuring a steady supply of bananas across the country. Currently, 0.01% of the total world banana production grows in America, leading to an ever-growing need to export. Bananas sold at your local Walmart or grocery store will more than likely be imported from Guatemala, Ecuador, or Costa Rica.

Bananas in store

How Bananas Grow

Banana plants are NOT trees, they are considered perennial herbs and are related to the lily and orchid flowers. Instead of a trunk, banana plants form a pseudostem. These stems are tightly packed with overlapping leaves that support the plant. There are three stages to the banana growth cycle: Vegetative development (six months), Flowering stage (three months), and Fruiting stage (three months). The timeframe from planting to harvesting is at least 12 months or 18 months if the weather is cooler than preferred. The average climate for banana production is 80°F/27°C and rainfall levels range between 78-98 inches annually. Humidity in the region should be at least 50% and constant. The daily climate should range between 78-86ºF/26-30ºC, and nightly conditions should be no lower than 67ºF/20ºC. If the temperature falls below 57ºF/14ºC, the banana plants will stop growing.

Bananas require a lot of water but can die without proper drainage. Consistent maintenance is required for upkeeping this plant. Any dead, insect-eaten, rotting, or discolored sections of the plant must be removed from the plant. A single rotting leaf from the stalk can affect the plant itself or even surrounding stalks. Whole hands of bananas can weigh 7-10 pounds, stalks on banana plants are thin and not sturdy which is why the plants will need supports to hold them vertical. The fruiting process can overstress the stalk, and if not fastened correctly, can break the stalk, thus killing the plant.

Shipping Bananas

Harvesting Bananas

To ship bananas in their healthiest form, they are harvested off the plant unripened. Having a green color should give them a 3-4 week period before fully ripening. Like avocados, bananas do not ripen while on the stalk. Following their removal from the stalk, the ripening cycle of the fruit begins. Harvesting the bananas at this stage will give them plenty of time to stay fresh as they reach their destination.

Bananas ship as whole hands, part hands, or clusters. To protect the cargo, workers pack the bunches in cardboard cartons with plastic slip-sheets between full hands. The cartons then go onto pallets for easy pickup and delivery. While shipping, bananas should be stored at or right around 53°F/12°C. When temperatures rise above the preferred temperature, the ripening process can occur, which can lead to supermarkets receiving bananas with shorter shelf lives.

Packaging Bananas to Ship Year-Round

Bananas are a prime export worldwide and must ship with care to ensure freshness. Ripe bananas at the time of delivery are a result of shipping produce in heat unfit for the preservation of the fruit. 65-68ºF/18-20ºC heat is the quickest ripening temperature range for bananas to age themselves or other fruits along with them. While shipping both domestically and internationally, pallets of bananas typically ship via reefer (refrigerated) trailers. Reefer trailers are the primary method trucking companies use to transport produce and perishable foods. Reefers are temperature controlled, and allow perishable goods to ship over long distances without spoiling. Travel times for bananas can last several weeks, but they will remain safe if they are harvested and packaged properly.

Most bananas imported to the United States year-round come from Central America and travel through the Panama Canal to the Port of Wilmington in Delaware. Banana containers are unloaded from ships, clear through customs, and then ship to temperature-controlled facilities without leaving the reefer container.

Use Caution While Transporting Bananas

Bananas should not be transported with any other type of produce. The peel of a banana is similar to the peel of apples, potatoes, and avocados. Chemicals within the peel release ethylene gases once harvested. Other fruits and vegetables can be harmed by exposure to this gas. Ethylene gas causes the fruit to soften by breaking down the cell walls and restructuring the molecular compounds within the fruit. Fermentation of ethylene gases can cause mutations, changing starches to sugars, or forming alcoholic substances. Shipping bananas along with other produce items can result in overripened fruits and vegetables as they reach their final destination.

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Nutritional Facts On Bananas

There are many nutritional benefits and vitamins in bananas. Coupled with being a rich source of carbs, fiber, potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. They are also a good source of dopamine and catechin, bananas aid heart and digestive health. While many cultures enjoy bananas in their dishes, others rely on 1-2 bananas as a daily necessity for health or vitamin upkeep.

The nutrition facts for 1 medium-sized banana (100 grams) are:

Different Types of Bananas

The following are the top 10 banana imports worldwide:

Banana varieties year-round

Banana Exporting Countries

Being the top global exported and imported produce items, banana and plantain farmers worldwide are shipping overseas to other countries. The listed are the top 10 producers of bananas worldwide.

  • India | India leads the world in banana production with an output of 14.2 million tons yearly. Their primary export is to the United Arab Emirates.
  • China | China produces nearly 12 million tons of bananas annually. The main destinations of China’s banana exports are Hong Kong, the United States, North Korea, Macau, and Mongolia.
  • Indonesia | Indonesia’s banana production has shot up to over 8 million tons annually. Malaysia and Japan are the major export countries for Indonesian bananas.
  • Brazil | Brazilian farmers produce around 6.5 to 7.5 million tons of bananas every year, of which ninety-five (95%) are consumed internally.
  • Ecuador | Ecuador is the world’s largest banana exporter. This fruit makes up 10% of Ecuador’s exports and represents 6% of the world’s total banana production.
  • The Philippines | In 2020, the Philippines exported $1.66B in Bananas. The Philippines stands as the second largest exporter of bananas.
  • Guatemala | In 2020, Guatemala exported $1.16B in Bananas, making it the 4th largest exporter of Bananas in the world. The United States is its best customer.
  • Angola | Angola has remained the largest banana producer in Africa since 2014, producing around 4.4 million tons annually.
  • The United Republic of Tanzania | In the United Republic of Tanzania, 11 million Tanzanians particularly in the Kagera, Kilimanjaro, and Mbeya regions rely on bananas for daily living.
  • Costa Rica | Production and export of Costa Rica bananas are carried out by Chiquita, Del Monte, Dole, and Grupo Acon.
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World Trade In Bananas

The list below details each country’s rank in world trade for bananas in 2020 (export/import). This includes the amount they export/import and the percentage of involvement in the global economy for bananas.

Top Banana Exporters 2020

Top Banana Importers 2020

  1. Ecuador | $3.63B | (27.41%)
  2. Philippines | $1.61B | (12.18%)
  3. Costa Rica | $1.16B | (8.74%)
  4. Guatemala | $1.0B | (7.59%)
  5. Colombia | $998.77M | (7.55%)
  1. The United States | $2.8B | (17.4%)
  2. Germany | $1.1B | (6.8%)
  3. Russia | $1.08B | (6.7%)
  4. Belgium | $1.033B | (6.4%)
  5. Japan | $981.9M | (6.1%)

Worlds Largest Importing/Exporting Banana Flows (Country to Country)

Export Flow

  • Costa Rica to USA | 3.28% of the world exports, $409 million. 
  • Ecuador to Russia | 5.39% of the world exports, $673 million.
  • Ecuador to Turkey | 2.28% of the world exports, $284 million.
  • Ecuador to USA | 4.77% of the world exports, $595 million.
  • Guatemala to USA | 7.19% of the world exports, $897 million.
  • Myanmar to China | 2.93% of the world exports, $366 million.
  • The Netherlands to Germany | 3.25% of the world exports, $405 million.
  • The Philippines to China | 3.87% of the world exports, $483 million.

Import Flow

  • Germany from Costa Rica | 2.11% of the world imports, $311 million.
  • Germany from Ecuador | 1.58% of the world imports, $233 million.
  • Japan from the Philippines | 5.16% of the world imports, $760 million.
  • Russia from Ecuador | 7.28% of the world imports, $1.07 billion.
  • The USA from Costa Rica | 3.14% of the world imports, $462 million.
  • The USA from Ecuador | 3.15% of the world imports, $465 million.
  • The USA from Guatemala | 7.34% of the world imports, $1.08 billion.
  • The USA from Honduras | 1.66% of the world imports, $244 million.

Bananas Import to America Year-Round

The top 2020 supplier of bananas to the U.S. market was Guatemala, according to the USDA. Guatemala supplied 1.876 million metric tons in 2020. The other primary suppliers of bananas to the U.S. are Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Honduras. Bananas are one of the top-rated fruits in the United States, receiving 4.14 million tons in 2020. Although many countries worldwide grow bananas, the U.S. doesn’t accept them from each region.

Taxes On Shipping Bananas

Bananas that are shipped internationally fall under the Harmonized System Code “Bananas, including plantains; fresh or dried.” In 2020, the average U.S. tariff on bananas was 0.34%. The countries with the highest import tariffs for Bananas were North Korea (1.4%), Cuba (1.4%), Burundi (0.47%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (0.47%), and Algeria (0.47%).

Ship Bananas Year-Round With Us!

Have trouble finding a way to ship produce? Let FreightCenter help! We’re experts when it comes to shipping products both nationally and internationally. Our carriers and freight agents can ease you into the process to ensure it’s a smooth ride for both you and your shipment. Use FreightCenter’s free online quote tool to begin. Call our shipping experts at 800.716.7608.

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