Plantains and bananas are seeing some unusual activity right now.
“Plantains are more scarce than usual. The market is very expensive--we’re seeing plantains north of $31 and I’ve never seen plantains in the market go for that price,” says Anthony Serafino of Exp Group, LLC.
Part of the issue is supply chain challenges but also geopolitical issues in supplying countries such as Ecuador. The country has seen numerous protests this summer over rising costs. “We’re trying to get as many plantains as we can but customers are also willing to pay a higher price so I haven’t really seen pressure from clientele to keep prices down. They just want to be serviced,” he says.
At the same time, bananas are also slimmer in supplies than usual (though ampler than plantains), largely due to high shipping rates. “Commodity inflation has finally come down a bit but we’re still seeing typical general rate increases on shipping lines into New York. It’s really difficult to manage,” says Serafino. “We’re a larger scale company so we can manage the increases but those things are passed down to the customer so if you’re a smaller customer, you’re not going to gamble with a commodity unless you know you can sell it because it’s very expensive.”
Right now, Exp Group is sourcing bananas from Honduras and Guatemala (the latter is where it also sources plantains from). Mexico also supplies bananas, though those largely stay in the central U.S. and push into Canada as well while Colombia is also shipping bananas. Organic bananas largely come from Peru, Colombia and increasingly, Ecuador. As for Exp Group itself, it’s also increasing its own infrastructure investments in bananas and plantains by investing in ripening rooms that will come online in early 2023.
Meeting these tighter supplies is strong demand, all of which means prices are stronger than usual. “There could also be a climate issue within some of these countries with more rain. So between the climate, inflation and supply chain constraints, it’s all making a recipe for rising costs,” says Serafino.
He does note that banana pricing is beginning to pressure down. “In the last three weeks, they’ve come down but they’re still very high. And plantains are astronomically high due to demand and scarce supply,” says Serafino. “And then back to school will come into play with demand so we anticipate September to be an elevated month revenue-wise for these two commodities."