Markets and Trade

Bananas

The most popular fruit

Bananas are among the most produced, traded and consumed fruits globally. More than 1 000 varieties of bananas exist in the world, which provide vital nutrients to populations in producing and importing countries alike. The most traded variety is the Cavendish banana, which accounts for just under half of global production at an estimated annual production volume of 50 million tonnes. Bananas are particularly significant in some of the least developed and low-income, food-deficit countries, where they can contribute not only to household food security as a staple but also to income generation as a cash crop.

Commodity in focus

World banana trade has expanded to unprecedented heights in recent years, with an estimated export volume of 21 million tonnes in 2019. Key drivers of trade include abundant supply growth in the leading export countries of Ecuador and the Philippines, and a significant increase in import demand, particularly by China and the European Union (EU).

Takeaways:

On average, more than 90 percent of bananas for export originate from Central and South America, and the Philippines. The largest importers are the EU, the United States of America, China, the Russian Federation, and Japan.

Banana export earnings help to finance food import bills, supporting the economies of major banana-producing countries.

Research in ten banana producing countries found that income from banana farming can account for around three quarters of total monthly household income for smallholder farmers (Bioversity).

Apart from plant diseases and adverse weather events, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to cause severe disruptions to global banana supply and smallholder livelihoods.

Did you know?

  • Bananas are predominantly produced in Asia, Latin America and Africa. The largest producers for domestic consumption are India and China.

  • Banana cultivar diversity comprises dessert types, like the Cavendish banana, and cooking types, like plantains. Some cultivars can have dual use.

  • Due to the often harsh methods used to control irrigation and plant diseases in large-scale banana production, such production can carry significant negative repercussions for the environment and the health and safety of workers and local communities.

  • A serious threat to the industry continues to be Fusarium Tropical Race 4 (TR4), a fungal disease affecting banana plants, which is currently confirmed in 17 banana-producing countries. In all reported cases, once a piece of farmland has been contaminated with TR4, managing the disease has been challenging and costly.

  • The global banana value chain is increasingly characterised by the direct downstream activities of large retail chains from the key importing countries. These chains operate independent of traditional fruit companies by sourcing bananas directly from growers and distributors.