Central American Bananas

When are bananas ripe?

The geographical distribution of bananas is very concentrated in Central and South America and the banana trade is controlled by a few large multi-national corporations. Check out the Chiquita web site.. In the 2004 USA Presidential election, Chiquita Brands contributed $175, 402 -- 98 percent of which went to the Republican Party.

The countries that depend heavily on bananas for all or most of their exports and for their national income are nicknamed "Banana Republics"-- a term for Third World political instability, corruption, and violence used by local elites on behalf of foreign multinationals which dominate the national economy. In general, Third World countries have to produce more and more exports as they receive fewer and fewer manufactured imports from the industrial countries. Banana producers who actually grow the bananas receive the least amount from the international banana trade. Ecuador is heavily depend on banana exports, and children are very important in the harvest.
       Even as consumers in the U.S. pay more for food, including bananas, the price for bananas increases much less. Read more about banana prices.
Which countries are the major banana exporters on this German-language map? The red bar graphs indicate the amount of banana exports per year.
Bananas, including plantains are staple food food crops for millions of people in poor countries, and the fourth largest crop in the world by value. About 90% of banana production takes place on small farms.

Source: Diercke Weltatlas. Braunschweig: Westermann, 1989, p. 203.

Honduras, Costa Rica, and Ecuador; other major banana exporters are Panama and Colombia. Ecuador's annual income from bananas is $329 million; the clothing chains, Banana Republic and Gap, have annual revenues of $6 billion! Notice that Nicaragua has never been a "Banana Republic."

Optional reading: Cynthia Enloe, Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist sense of International Politics. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990, especially Chapter 6, Carmen Miranda on My Mind: International Politics of the Banana.