With banana production reported to be slowing down slightly during the New Year period, distributors in the US say it has not yet flowed on to them. Supplies remain steady for companies like Los Angeles-based SGS Produce, who now source their bananas from major producers.
"Seasonally, we seem to be in good supply right now," said SGS Produce's Todd Smayda. "We used to source our bananas directly from places like Ecuador and also Guatemala and Colombia, however we have now established contracts with the major banana producers and we are receiving whatever we need at the moment."
The stability in supply from contracts has extended to the market. "It's a competitive market but for us it is stable at the moment," Smayda shared. "Because we are on contracts, we are somewhat protected from a lot of the variation that can occur on the open market."
Suppliers monitoring effects of diseases
In recent years, it has been reported that diseases like Tropical Race 4 are becoming a problem for banana growers. Scientists and banana producers alike are concerned with the spread of these diseases, especially given that the world market is dominated by a single variety - the Cavendish.
"There are a number of diseases going around which we as distributors monitor in terms of their long-term effects on banana supplies," Smayda observed. "From my understanding it has become a challenge because there is very little genetic diversity, something which scientists may try and remedy in the future."
Thai bananas gaining popularity
Returning to the US market, suppliers have noted an increase in demand for other varieties of bananas. One of the more notable types is the Thai banana. This smaller sized variety is part of SGS Produce's range along with a number of other more less familiar varieties.
"SGS Produce offers a lot of different banana varieties, including bunches, singles, baby bananas, red bananas, Manzanos, as well as Thai bananas," Smayda shared. "The Thia bananas are really gaining in popularity. They are a small, dense and very sweet fruit that not many people are familiar with. Thai bananas are better known and more sought-after in the Asian community, however most American consumers are not aware of it."