Banana supplies are low to start out 2019.
“It’s like this every year and this year is similar to last year’s supply,” says Mary Carmen Stivalet-Thomas of Kadivac Produce. “Right now, we have little production of bananas, as it usually is in the first quarter of the year. Some people in the industry think there’s going to be less production this year. But for us, it seems to be the same.”
Mary Carmen Stivalet-Thomas "Carmelita" of Kadivac Produce.
Stivalet-Thomas, the female owner of Kadivac, which is unique in the banana business, brings 85 percent of its banana production to the U.S. and is currently getting supplies from Chiapas, Mexico. “We do have consistent supply from there and the crop looks good,” she says, adding that Kadivac sells both the Carmelita and Vida brands of bananas. “The low production is due to temperatures mainly. The cold season is starting and there’s less sun during the day.”
Also shipping bananas into the U.S. are Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica, all regions which generally experience the same cooler temperatures at the start of the year. “This is why the price usually goes higher now, because of general conditions,” says Stivalet-Thomas.
Pushing that price up is also a return to demand for bananas. “Demand is often slow during the vacation time but now with kids back in school, demand will go up again,” she says.
While much of Kadivac’s production is on contract pricing, she notes that spot market prices are approximately 20 percent higher than a month ago.
Managing costs a concern
That can help offset challenges in the banana industry, which include rising costs. “The cost of materials has gone up such as certifications—most of our markets require for us to have certification such as Rainforest Alliance or Global G.A.P., etc. Freight and transportation have gone up as have salaries,” Stivalet-Thomas says. “That’s our biggest challenge. We have our yearly contracts and only a little fruit going on the spot market.”
Looking ahead, that market may stay where it’s at for awhile. “The price is going up starting this week and we’ll probably have low supplies for another three weeks,” says Stivalet-Thomas. “But for February, we’ll have more fruit and then in March as well. Little by little we’ll increase supplies.”