Vol. 36, No. 1 (January - June 2008)
Paying the price: the banana trade in focus
University of the West of England, Bristol
Banana Split. Directed by Ron Harpelle and Kelly Saxberg, Shebandowan
Films, 2002. DVD. 46 minutes.
Banana Split is a Canadian produced award-winning documentary
lasting 46 minutes, which provides an overview of the historical,
social, economic, scientific and environmental aspects of banana produc-
tion. In recent years most attention has been focused on the long running
banana trade war between the United States (U.S.) and Latin American
governments on the one hand and the European Union (E.U.) on the
other. The result of which has been the abandonment of preferences for
African, Caribbean and Pacific imports into the E.U., and the end of a
large-scale banana export industry in the Caribbean. While the dispute
has been very important in determining international trade policy as well
as the economic profile of the Caribbean, there are other contentious
issues related to the banana, and this film is useful in focusing attention
The international banana trade is worth around US$10 billion each
year, with annual exports amounting to approximately 12 million tonnes.
Only the Cavendish variety is exported but there are hundreds of other
varieties. The banana is the most popular fruit in the world, and the
fourth most important staple food crop after rice, wheat and maize.
Latin America accounts for 80 percent of world banana exports, and
the major banana exporters are Ecuador (4½ million tonnes per year),
Costa Rica and Colombia (1½ million tonnes each). The main producer
is India with 17 million tonnes, but none of the bananas are exported.
Overall, only about 25 percent of all bananas produced are exported,
and the most prominent companies involved in the trade are Chiquita
(formerly known as the United Fruit Company) and Dole each with a
25 percent share, and Del Monte with an eight percent share. Chiqu