The banana, an affordable fruit, but at what price?

According to Statistics Canada data, since 1995 bananas have sold for between $1.07 and $1.73 per kilo, averaging $1.43/kg.

It should be noted that the price of bananas has been stable for a decade. For the international vice-president and business development of the distributor Courchesne Larose, Guy Milette, this stability is explained in particular by productivity gains. Banana production methods have resulted in production volumes of 4500 cases per hectare per week. Twenty years ago, we barely had 1,200 or 1,500 cases. The increase in production has helped a lot to control costs, even to see them decrease.

Guy Milette points out that companies specializing in bananas (Dole, Del Monte, Chiquita, etc.) control logistics and transport. The major banana companies have their own ships, which allows them to have stability in terms of transport costs.

Another aspect for this specialist in food distribution: the banana is used by retailers as a “Trojan horse”. The average consumer won’t remember the price they paid for their celery last week. But the banana is one of the products with a very stable price that consumers remember. The big chains will use the banana to attract consumers to the store.

At last, food chains sign long-term contracts, explains Guy Milette. They have guaranteed prices and remain protected from the vagaries of supply and demand..

Bananas identified as “fairtrade”.

Fair trade bananas

Photo: Radio-Canada / The grocery store

The true cost of bananas

Like coffee and cocoa, there has been a fair trade and organic banana market for several years. Jennie Coleman is the head of the Equifruit company, which distributes this banana across the country. Demand is strong, despite a meager 2% market share.

It pleads for the consumer as well as the entire supply chain to pay the right price.

If we paid the same price in 2022 dollars as we paid in 1995, the conventional banana would be at $1.05 per pound. The banana has been kept very cheap at the grocery store for too long and the difference in price between what you should be paying and what you are paying for is a huge chasm that is being paid for by someone elseexplains Jennie Coleman.

Nothing is free. It is as if we were asking small producers to subsidize a product for us through their lousy wages and appalling working conditions. »

A quote from Jennie Coleman, President, Equifruit

In the world of tropical fruits and vegetables, few are produced and sold in a fair way, notes the general manager of Fairtrade Canada, Julie Francoeur.

With fair trade, we try to deliver justice to workers in a much more fair way and to recognize a fair price for the product.explains Ms. Francoeur.

I was really shocked by a report that came out last year that described working conditions on plantations in Guatemala, adds Jennie Coleman. People work an average of 68 hours a week for just over $1 US of the hour, with verbal or sexual harassment. And yet, remember that 40% of bananas entering Canada come from Guatemala.

Banana production is more than 120 million tons each year, or more than 3,000 tons per second. In Canada, we consume 15 kg per year, 5 kg more than apples.

For Guy Milette, the low wages are explained in particular by the fact that the distributors do not have control over the working conditions in the producing countries.

A woman packs bananas.

In Canada, bananas come from Central and South America: Ecuador, Peru, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica and, to a lesser extent, Mexico.

Photo: Radio-Canada

Soaring production costs

Inflation has significant consequences for banana producers: explosion of local transport costs, the price of inputs (fertilizers, pesticides), the price of packaging… And that’s without taking into account the war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia. Demand is falling, prices too. So much so that last January, seven Ministers of Agriculture from producing countries (including Ecuador in the lead) met to form a common front and demand a fairer price. so as not to jeopardize the banana industry.

Yet even banana giants like Dole also offer fair trade bananas. They are mainly sold in Europe. In Canada, demand is still very weak.

A minimal difference for the consumer

For Jennie Coleman, the price difference remains small between conventional bananas and fair trade bananas.

Fairtrade Canada has studied the price difference across the country.

The price of conventional bananas is around $0.69 per pound, that of organic bananas, around $1 and that of organic and fair trade bananas, from $1 to $1.29 per pound.

The average Canadian consumes 33 pounds of bananas per year, calculates Julie Francoeur, so this represents an annual price difference of $10 to $20 depending on the region.or 20 to 40 cents per week.

Banana sales at Equifruit jumped 40% in 2021, reports Jennie Coleman. We need to think bigger than just the packaging of our fruits and vegetables. We have to think about who produced them, under what conditions and how much the producers were paid.

Leave a Comment