Currently, few bananas are produced in the United States. Banana production in Florida is estimated at about 500 acres, valued at approximately $2 million. Recently, there has been a renewed interest in expanding US banana production to satisfy various niche markets, including the market for organic and processed bananas. Consequently, the purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the world and US markets for fresh bananas, with special reference to the US market for organic bananas.
In 2009, world production of bananas reached an estimated 97.3 million metric tonnes (mmt), grown on 4.9 million hectares. The 2009 crop represented an increase in production of 49 percent from the 65.1 mmt recorded in 2000. The top five banana-producing countries of India, the Philippines, China, Ecuador, and Brazil accounted for 61 percent of global banana production in 2009, up from 56 percent in 2000. In addition, there were noticeable production increases in India and the Philippines (Figure 1).
India continues to be by far the largest world producer of fresh bananas; by 2009, India had produced more than 26 mmt of bananas (almost 28% of the global production). Next in line is the Philippines, with a market share of 9.3 percent, followed closely by China (9.2%), Ecuador (7.8%), and Brazil (7%). Of the top five banana-producing countries, only Ecuador and the Philippines are major exporting countries. The bulk of the production is sold to the domestic market in these countries.
US banana production is very limited; in 2009, US total banana production reached almost 7,000 mmt, or 0.01% of the total world production, on an estimated 16,000 acres. Hawaii is by far the largest banana producer in the United States, followed by Florida. Banana production in Hawaii has followed a downward trend, from 13,181 mmt in 2000 to 8,090 mmt in 2010. Hawaii produces mainly the conventional Cavendish variety and the Hawaiian apple banana, which are sold in the local markets due to high labor and land costs. The major US banana exporter is Florida, which produces mainly Thai and cooking bananas (Bluggoe type). In addition, US banana producers are seeking opportunities in the organic and specialty segments of the banana market in Florida and the coastal region of Georgia (Schupska 2008).
Global export of bananas in 2009 (FAO) was estimated at 14.8 mmt, the equivalent of 15.3 percent of the world production that year, and was valued at approximately $8.08 billion. The five leading banana-exporting countries in 2009 were Ecuador, Colombia, the Philippines, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. Together, they accounted for approximately 84 percent of the global banana exports in 2009. Ecuador is by far the main supplier of bananas in the world market, with exports of 5.7 mmt in 2009, which is equivalent to 38 percent of the total volume of bananas traded that year. Next in line is Colombia, with a market share of 13.2 percent, followed by the Philippines (11.7%), Costa Rica (11.5%), and Guatemala (9.9%).
Banana is the second most tradable fresh fruit. By region, Latin America is the world's top supplier of bananas, supplying 83.2 percent of the gross fresh bananas exported in 2009, followed by the Far East at 12.8 percent, Africa at 3.4 percent, and the Caribbean at 0.4 percent (Figure 2). Exports from the Caribbean have been steadily decreasing due to the loss of preferential treatment after the liberalization of the EU (European Union) market.
Global imports of fresh bananas have followed a long-term upward trend, reaching 16.3 mmt in 2009. The 2009 figure represents an increase of 13 percent above the 14.4 mmt exported in 2000 (Figure 3). As in the case of exports, imports of bananas are concentrated. In 2009, the United States, the European Union, and Japan accounted for about 56 percent of the total world's fresh banana imports. While imports of bananas to the United States and Japan have remained relatively flat over the period 2000 to 2009, imports to the European Union have increased by 15.6 percent, from 3.9 mmt in 2000 to 4.5 mmt in 2009.
The EU banana market is controlled by custom tariffs and market intervention. For example, the European Union imposes tariffs on bananas from Latin America while allowing bananas imported from the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries to enter duty-free. This caused the widely known banana trade war, which resulted in the European Union cutting duties on bananas from Latin America gradually to 144 Euros per mmt by 2016 from the current 176 Euros per mmt.
The world's fresh banana market is characterized as an oligopolistic market, with only a few multinational companies (MNCs) engaged in the purchase, transport, and marketing of the fruit. Typically, these companies are integrated vertically; they own or contract plantations, own sea transport and ripening facilities, and have their own distribution networks, which gives them considerable economies of scale and market power in selling bananas.
The world's three largest producers and marketers of fresh bananas are Dole Food Company, Chiquita Brands International, and Del Monte Fresh Produce. Each of these companies owns banana plantations in most of the banana-producing regions in the world.
Unlike the EU market, the US banana market is free of tariffs or quantitative import restrictions, making it a very competitive market. Measured by value or volume, banana is still the major fresh fruit imported to the United States. In 2000, total shipments of bananas to the United States were valued at $1.02 billion, representing 32 percent of the total value of fresh fruit imports that year (Figure 5). By 2010, the import value of fresh bananas had risen to $1.64 billion, a 61 percent increase over the 2000 figure. The observed absolute increase in the value of banana imports was mainly caused by the increase in unit price stemming from a weak US dollar, and was not a result of increased volumes. As shown in Figure 6, the total supply of fresh bananas remained relatively flat over the period 2000 to 2009 at around 4.0 mmt. This implies that in general the US fresh banana market has become saturated. This is further evidenced by the slight decline in per capita consumption, down from 12.9 kilograms in 2000 to 11.2 kilograms per capita in 2009. This decline could be caused by consumers shifting their fruit expenditures from bananas to other fresh fruits (Figure 6). As discussed below, even though the fresh banana market in general can be regarded as a mature market, the situation is completely different when it comes to organic bananas.
The main conventional banana brands marketed in the United States are Dole, Chiquita, Del Monte, Turbana (Uniban), and Bonita (Exportadora Noboa). Because of the lack of publicly available data, it is not possible to estimate the market share for conventional bananas. Many of the companies will not disclose this information or do so only on a limited regional basis. The only company that gives an estimated market share is Dole, which claims to be the number one brand of bananas in the United States, with an estimated market share of 35 percent.
Figure 8 shows the import pattern of bananas into the US market. In general, volumes tend to decline in the summer months due to increased competition from other fruits in the market. For example, the sharp decline in supply from July to September 2009 was due to exceptionally bad weather in South America as heavy flooding destroyed plantations in Costa Rica and Ecuador.
With the exception of Peru and the Dominican Republic, whose exporting agencies regularly publish such export data, countries do not make available statistics regarding imports/exports of organic bananas. Quantities of organic bananas imported from Colombia and Ecuador had to be estimated based on literature and industry sources. Based on industry sources, the US market for organic bananas in 2010 was estimated at 123,460 tonnes (6,789,750 boxes), or 3 percent of the total volume of fresh banana imports. With a national average price of $23.79 per box at the wholesale level and a retail price of $1.74 per kilogram in 2010, the organic banana industry was worth about $161.5 million at the wholesale level and $214 million at the retail level.
Whereas the demand for conventional bananas remained relatively flat over the first decade of the twenty-first century, the demand for organic bananas increased markedly. For example, between 2000 and 2010, organic banana imports grew fourfold, from 27,000 tonnes to over 123,000 tonnes (Figure 10). Industry sources have reported that organic bananas represent one of the fastest growing commodities among organic produce, with demand outstripping supply.
The main suppliers of organic bananas to the US market are depicted in Figure 11 for the corresponding years 2006 and 2010. Not surprisingly, Ecuador, the leading world exporter of bananas, is the main supplier of organic bananas to the United States. Between 2006 and 2010, Ecuador increased its market share of the US organic banana supply from 46 percent to 52 percent. Industry sources point out that bananas from Ecuador are of a very high standard and are relatively cheap.
Colombia, which was the third leading supplier of organic bananas to the US market in 2006, has switched positions with Peru and now ranks as the second major supplier of organic bananas to the US market, with an estimated market share of 24 percent in 2010. The improved market penetration on the part of Colombia is due to major investments in organic banana plantations in that country.
The third leading supplier of organic bananas to the US market is Peru, with a market share of 18 percent in 2010, down from 26 percent in 2006. In contrast to production in Colombia, most of the organic banana production in Peru occurs on small holdings averaging less than one hectare. This has made the formation of cooperatives in Peru necessary for its farmers to compete in the larger marketplace. With help from its government, Peru has shifted from conventional to organic banana production, and as a consequence only exports organic bananas to the United States, about 45 percent of the total organic export share. 781b155fdc