UK consolidates diverse sources of its bananas

The UK banana market’s last full year as part of the EU-28 underlines the increasing diversity of sources of its bananas, far more diversified than any other EU member state. This almost certainly relates to buyers’ perception of the real risks of climate and disease disruption: sourcing from a diversity of geographical regions as a way of managing that risk.

However, the total import volume is considerably down on some previous years (record import levels reached over 1.1 million tonnes a few years ago).

The leading role played by Colombian bananas in the UK market over the last decade or more is confirmed, with Costa Rica still in second place. Dominican Republic volumes have reduced compared to recent years (mainly organic, but also conventional), suggesting that some buyers are acting on still unresolved reputational risk issues concerning illegal Haitian migrant workers. The UK has also ceased to be the dominant market that it was for DR bananas, representing less than 40% of all DR exports, compared to close to 60% a few years back. Ecuador has consolidated its position as fourth biggest origin, mainly because of the importing strategy of the UK’s largest retail chain, Tesco.

Africa’s share of UK imports has slightly fallen – to 8.5 from 10% a few years’ back – as some buyers have reacted negatively to perceived issues of low wages, especially in the case of Côte d’Ivoire, and to real political risk in the specific case of Cameroon.

Other Central American sources (notably Guatemala and Nicaragua) have gradually emerged in the last five years, as import tariff reductions and lower costs of production have made these sources more competitive from a purely financial point of view. Mexican volumes are mainly organic Fairtrade certified fruit from Colima.

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