A Journey of a Banana
Whether your blending a banana to make a smoothie or snacking on one on your early morning commute the humble banana is a staple in most of our diets and quite often a convenience that we take for granted but consider for one moment the journey of a banana.
The labour, planning, transportation and collaboration that goes into the supply chain is fascinating, and it involves more careful attention than you might think. Bananas operate within a global supply chain and getting it right and making sure the fruit reaches consumers in the best possible condition involves several critical stages, but let’s start at the beginning!
The Banana Plantations
Before anything happens, the bananas must first be grown and harvested, and that requires the dedication of producers and their workers.
Although there are over 1000 variations of banana in existence for most of us in the western world, we are mostly accustomed to the Cavendish variety. The process of growing bananas isn’t a straight forward one especially this popular variety.
Banana production is vulnerable; the plants are very susceptible to changes in temperature, plant pests and diseases. Changes in soil climates can also be damaging. Bananas also need a lot of space, water and sunlight to flourish. All of this requires a great deal of maintenance and monitoring from experienced producers in the lead up to harvesting.
Packing & Traceability
Customers want to know where the food they’re eating comes from. So, this is where effective traceability comes in its own.
Once harvested, it’s washed, labelled and packaged as close to the farm as possible. This ensures nothing happens between harvesting and packing – the banana is then manually packed into a box quickly and starts the rest of its long journey.
A box code is usually stamped on the package to identify essential details such as the time, date and location of harvest, and then our banana is sent on its way.
Banana on the Move
The bananas then move into the cargo freight system, whether that’s on a carrier belonging to the exporter or one of the mainstream general logistic providers. While on a ship, the bananas are stored in a large refrigerated container to keep them fresh.
Once again on land, the bananas are moved to a ripening location where they stay for between 5 and seven days. This stage requires precise temperatures of between 13°C and 18°C as anything outside of these parameters can damage the appearance of the fruit.
Given that consumers often choose between bananas by looks, the banana needs tender care to continue to look its best. To ensure the best quality on arrival, air is circulated in the ripening room while ethylene gas and hydrocarbons are pumped in to help trigger the ripening process.
Before the bananas reach supermarket shelves and consumers, the banana must go through one final check. This ensures the consignment is of high quality, and that it conforms to all health and safety requirements.
Then the banana is popped back into the logistics chain and is delivered to retailers all over the country. From there, it’s unpacked, put on a shelf and is chosen by a discerning customer browsing the banana aisle.
From farm to fruit bowl it’s undoubtedly a long and arduous journey. Next time you place a bunch in your shopping basket, spare a thought for the many people and processes that have gone into delivering your delicious, bananas!