Banana Coverage

Banana is the world’s fourth most important staple crop (including plantains), following wheat, maize, and rice. Demand for the fruit is growing, due to its widespread availability, health and nutritional benefits, and population growth.

Global consumption is expected to grow to 136 million tonnes by 2025, an increase of 20 million tonnes from 2017, driven by demand from producer countries, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, which accounts for 61% of current demand.

Bananas are also the world’s most important fruit by export value, with 22.7 million tonnes (excluding plantains) trading for USD 11 billion in 2017. Asia is the largest producing region, but 80% of exported bananas come from Latin America and the Caribbean.

The sector faces a variety of sustainability challenges. Producers are in a race against time to find resistant varieties to combat crop diseases and other sustainable production challenges, including climate change impacts and excessive pesticide use. Another issue stems from the lack of living wages for banana farmers and other workers in the sector, as farm gate prices have remained unchanged for decades.

Producers are increasingly using voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs), which work to address some of these sustainability issues. From 2008 to 2016, VSS-compliant banana production has experienced a 43% compound annual growth rate, to account for at least 7% of the market, representing 36% of banana exports.

VSSs can potentially lower and internalize societal costs by providing banana workers and smallholder producers with better compensation, as well as preventing environmental damage such as habitat loss, excessive pesticide use, water depletion and climate change impacts.

Developing the demand for VSS-compliant bananas in producing countries would be a substantial source of growth. It is critical that VSSs become more accessible for smallholder banana producers to enable both sustainable production and consumption in producing countries.

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Key Takeaways

70 million

The banana sector provides livelihoods for 70 million people in Africa alone.

400 million

Bananas provide substantial nutrition and food security for 400 million people.

43% growth

From 2008 to 2016, VSS-compliant banana production saw a 43% compound annual interest growth rate.

8 million tonnes

In 2016, producers delivered at least 8 million tonnes of VSS-compliant bananas, valued at USD 2.4 billion.