UK breaks records with banana imports

Over the past decade, almost every year has brought a record breaking amount of banana imports to the UK, which consumes the most bananas in the European Union. Per year, every man, woman and child consumes the equivalent of a forty pound (18.14kg) box and total import volumes have more than doubled in two decades, from 478,000 MT in 1995 to 1,160,000 MT in 2015.

The extremely low retail price of loose bananas cuts margins for all those involved in the chain; even the cheapest apples cost almost double the price of bananas per kilo in most major retailers. 

Two major trends have marked the industry in the UK over the last twenty years: the rise of the Latin American banana and the almost total collapse of Windward Islands volumes. By 2015, Latin American fruit accounted for over 60% of the market, whilst Windward Islands bananas have crashed to less than 1% of imports. In the early 1990s the situation was almost the reverse.
 
Other trends in sourcing

Since the vast majority of bananas are bought on annual contracts by the supermarket chains, it is they who determine whether a given exporting country is able to sell its bananas in the UK or not. And, of course, whether these are bought on Fairtrade terms or are certified organic, or both. Although official figures do not record whether bananas are certified or not, Banana Link estimates that around one third of total imports are Fairtrade or organic or both.
 
Since 2010 Colombia has established itself as the biggest single source, overtaking Costa Rica which has almost no Fairtrade bananas and no organic exports. The Dominican Republic, which has grown rapidly to become the biggest exporter of both organic and Fairtrade, now takes second place. The UK is consistently buying over half of all the country's exports.
 
Despite the higher costs of transport and higher tariffs into the EU, Ecuador has risen to become the source of choice for conventional bananas and is likely to displace Costa Rica in coming years. A decade ago Ecuador was still perceived by buyers as an unacceptable source from a quality and ethical point of view and Costa Rica was the conventional supplier of choice. This situation seems to be being reversed.
 
When it comes to African bananas, the trends are less clear. The proportion of total imports has fallen considerably since 2010, perhaps because of the perceived ethical risks of low wages. However, Ghana has entered the top ten source countries for the first time, presumably because the country has Fairtrade and most recently, organic certified fruit. Cameroon and Côte d'Ivoire volumes, on the other hand, have fallen significantly over the last five years.
 
Heightened contradictions

In conclusion, although the UK market has become the biggest in Europe, it is also the most contradictory. It has possibly the highest proportion of certified fruit, but has the lowest prices of any major consumer country in the world. How long can this tension remain before producers object to the high entry requirements and prices? Or before they go bust? 
 
To read the full article, please click here.

Source: Banana Link

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