The banana is the most popular fruit eaten in the UK, 95% of families buy bananas each week.
Whilst there are more than 300 varieties of bananas, the majority of bananas grown have been of one type, Gros Michel or Big Mike. A variety which has a universally acceptable taste, acceptable size, colour and sweetness. The modern popularity of bananas came as a result of the activities of the United Fruit Company in the USA which had plantations in the southern American states and Islands. The company developed the sale of these all over the world using a fleet of 100 refrigerated ships.
Hot and damp conditions are ideal for growing the banana. The mass production of the banana plants has lead to problems. The plants are readily infected by a variety of pathogens as the banana plant is a clone, inbred and has inherent vulnerability and susceptibility to a wide range of pathogens. The plants are grown from cuttings and the seeds are quite fragile. The climate must facilitate the activity of pathogens, warm and wet.
The variety of banana now used is the Cavendish and even this is dying.
The transport of bananas to the shops is a masterly exercise in transport. The time from cutting the bananas from the tree on the plantation to the distant shop must be within 12 to 13 days before rotting begins.
The banana plant requires intensive pesticide and fungicide application to keep the plants alive. Hence bananas are amongst the most chemically treated of any food we eat.
This description of the bananas way of life and the politics of the company ( United Fruit ) who developed its widespread usage is to be found in the Financial Times Magazine May 5/6 2007, pp 24-27; written by Peter Chapman
He has also written a book “Jungle Capitalists, a story of Globalisation Greed and Revolution published by Canongate. Press
- Martin Eastwood