Peeling away from big corporations, smaller farmers gain greater hold in banana market

Bananas. Photo: World Bank/Yosef Hadar

24 April 2014 – Banana markets are becoming more fragmented creating opportunities for new companies and smaller producers, the United Nations agricultural agency today reported, urging more support for smaller farmers to be fully included in their national economies and to grow resilient fruit.

“The competition among banana producing countries is fierce, and many have struggled to remain competitive, but there are also new opportunities, as the market is no longer dominated by big players – and new buyers are entering the market,” said Ekaterina Krivonos, economist at the Trade and Markets Division in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

In a new report on the changing nature of the global banana trade, FAO said that the combined market share of the three largest multinational banana traders fell from 65.3 per cent in the 1980s to 36.6 per cent in 2013.

The scope of operations of these companies – Chiquita, Dole and Del Monte – has moved away from plantation ownership and production to post-production logistics, including transportation and marketing, noted the FAO Intergovernmental Group on Bananas and Tropical Fruits.

Last month, Chiquita, the largest of these companies, merged with Flyffes, one of the main suppliers to the European market.

With new opportunities for smaller farmers, the UN agency said banana producers need to be better informed and better prepared.

“In this changing market structure, it is vital that smallholders, as well as producer organizations, receive support in all of these areas, to be fully included in their national economies and to build the resilience of farming families in the banana industry,” said Kaison Chang, Secretary of the FAO Intergovernmental Group.

The Rome-based agency is working with Governments and producers to help them build their viability by maintaining good cultivation practices, preventing and fighting plant diseases, strengthening producer organizations and developing both domestic and international marketing strategies, according to the report.

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