Consumers demand high quality of the food they consume and they are interested in the taste, appearance or shape of bananas. Food safety has become a very significant issue, particularly after the food scares in Europe. Consumers want to be informed about the food they are consuming through appropriate labelling and tracking and traceability schemes.
The quality of the bananas would be determined by size (length of fingers and thickness), evenness of ripening, absence of blemishes and defects and the arrangement of the clusters. Quality standards may vary in the different markets.
Minimun quality requirements for bananas are set by Codex Alimentarius, according to which there are three classes of bananas:
"Extra" Class Bananas
In this class must be of superior quality. They must be characteristic of the variety and/or commercial type. The fingers must be free of defects, with the exception of very slight superficial defects, provided these do not affect the general appearance of the produce, the quality, the keeping quality, and presentation in the package.
Class I Bananas
In this class must be of good quality. They must be characteristic
of the variety. The following slight defects of the fingers, however,
may be allowed, provided these do not affect the general appearance
of the produce, the quality, the keeping quality and presentation in
This class includes bananas which do not qualify for inclusion in the
higher classes, but satisfy the minimum requirements specified above.
The following defects may be allowed, provided the bananas retain their
essential characteristics as regards the quality, the keeping quality
There are important environmental and social factors to consider in
the production of banana. In order to achieve higher productivity levels,
intensive banana production in large-scale plantations needs high quantities
of external inputs as pesticides, fungicides and other agrochemicals
to fight diseases and pests and maintain or increase fertility of the
land, with the consequent damaging effects on the environment . These
banana production practices may lead to deforestation, water pollution
in rivers as well as under the ground, biodiversity damage and soil
deterioration, as well as important health damages for banana workers.
In addition, in certain countries working conditions in banana plantations
may not be the minimum ones, wages for banana workers are very low while
smallholders banana farmers do not receive a fair remuneration. In some
cases the rights to unionise and collective bargaining are limited .
Some consumers in United States, Europe (in particular Switzerland) or Japan are willing to buy fair-trade and organic bananas even if their cost is higher. They are ready to pay a premium above the regular banana price if they are guaranteed that the bananas they are consuming are produced under sound environmental and social conditions. The premium may go from 30% to 80% of the normal banana price. Following these consumer demands, supermarkets are orientating their banana business in this direction, with an increasing presence of this kind of products in their outlets. The banana industry is therefore being pushed to move into fair-trade and organic banana production. With their influence, consumers can help to increase environmental and social sustainability in the export banana industry.
On organic and fair trade bananas see FAO Document CCP: BA/TF 01/5 The market for "organic" and "fair trade" bananas.
and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Bananas entry
Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) International Trade Centre (ITC), organic
products website Global Exchange Ethical
Trading Initiative Alter Trade
Japan US/ Labor Education
in the Americas Project, US/LEAP COLSIBA (Coordinadora Latinoamericana
de Sindicatos Bananeros) Social Accountability International
SA8000 Europe´s Forum on International
Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD)
International Trade Centre (ITC), organic
US/ Labor Education
in the Americas Project, US/LEAP
COLSIBA (Coordinadora Latinoamericana
de Sindicatos Bananeros)
Social Accountability International
Europe´s Forum on International