“After the festive season was done, the market picked up again in January,” says Christophe Vandenbroeck of the Belgian company, Van Damme, which sells about 80,000 boxes of bananas every week, mainly to supermarkets. “We feel it improving. The is growing rapidly in terms of volumes.” He says the first months of the year, until April, are the best for banana sales. This manager expects volumes will keep climbing until the end of that month. “The volumes usually keep increasing until then, after which summer fruit enters the market which we notice affecting banana volumes a little.”
Christophe Vandenbroeck, Van Damme
Although the summer fruit’s presence is noted, Christophe gives the idea that this category has limited influence. “The market remains tremendously stable.” He says, generally, the high demand for bananas remains, and certainly, for specific varieties such as organic or Fairtrade bananas. “Here, you see enormous growth that is much faster than in other types.” There is sufficient Fairtrade and organic bananas production at the moment. Vandenbroeck, however, thinks that if the demand keeps rising as its current tempo, limits regarding the availability of these bananas could be reached.
Pressure on prices
Despite Fairtrade and organic bananas’ high prices, demand keeps increasing. “The difference in price is driving this year-on-year evolution. It, therefore, seems consumers are beginning to react positively on a social level to the market’s communication processes and strategies behind these bananas,” Christophe continues. He, however, adds that prices are under pressure. “The intention is that the price difference is to be given to producers who can then continue doing uplifting work, but supermarkets are putting pressure on prices."
"This is, after all, a relatively good system to ensure a minimum profit on production.” Christophe considers this intense competition between supermarkets to be the reason why banana prices are under pressure. “The banana is a competitive product of which the prices are compared between the supermarkets.” Retailers use this as a reason not to increase consumer prices. That, in turn, means rising production costs cannot be passed on. “The players in the supermarket chain have to share the bill.”
Christophe expects these low prices will eventually affect the quality of the bananas. “If supermarkets want to keep working with a high-quality product that meets all the necessary standards and specifications, they will have to hike their prices a little. Because I think people are prepared to pay a little more for a good quality banana.” He has noticed organic and Fairtrade bananas - which have a different strategy allowing prices to rise - can focus on quality but are also environmentally and socially responsible. “We see clients are willing to pay slightly more for a high-quality product.”