Posts Tagged ‘Cameroon’

Yes, I have some bananas

Hi all, it’s the guest blogger again today. Enjoy!

 

Just before getting into this week’s topic I thought I’d ask if, after last week’s post, any of you decided to do some three-word daily diary stuff. Here’s mine for the last few days:

 

Thu 31.1.13 Hospital blood test

Fri 1.2.13 Virus check done

Sat 2.2.13 Weekly shop done

Sun 3.2.13 Projector malfunction again

Mon 4.2.13 Projector fault found

Tue 5.2.13 Sun after snow

 

(A note from lazylauramaisey, mine for today is “loving new piano!”)

 

Ok so on to this week’s subject.

 

YES, I HAVE SOME BANANAS

I wonder if you know the derivation of the word BANANA? Etymologies differ and one suggests it is from a West African language spoken in Senegal & the Gambia and introduced by the Spanish & Portuguese who it’s believed first discovered the word; the other suggests an Arabic root from their word banan meaning finger. Both sound feasible; take your pick I suppose.

Banana facts: they are a good source of vitamin B6 (25% of our RDA), vitamin C (about 15% RDA for a non-smoker) & potassium (25% RDA). The fruit releases into the body dopanine and serotonin which are good for the brain. Bananas are picked green and start to ripen straight away. What actually happens to turn them from green to the yellow we’re familiar with when we eat them? After they are picked, the hormones in the fruit convert certain amino acids into ethylene gas. This gas then causes the production of enzymes that change the colour and also the texture and flavour of the banana. The reason they can arrive here still green is because they are carried in a temperature controlled environment with a certain amount of ethylene in it so that the ripening process is slowed down.

 

Check out the label here on the bananas I bought this week at my local supermarket.

 
image

 

I wonder if you ever look at the labels on the food you buy. You may check a sell by date, best before date etc. How many of us look at the ingredients? Certainly those with allergies have no choice but anyone else is probably just rushing round as quickly as possible to get out of the supermarket or wherever the goods are on sale. I was intrigued last week to note the label on my bananas said they were a product of Ecuador; this week, as you can see in my picture, it was Cameroun. Ecuador apparently produces one third of all the bananas grown for export “in the world”. In 2004 there were 130 countries producing bananas; bear in mind the UN has 192 countries and the world has 195/6 depending on who is defining which land areas actually count as countries. That means basically two thirds of all the countries in the world produce bananas.

It got me thinking about the product. Where are the world’s bananas grown? How much? Here is a table showing production levels of the top 10 in the year 2011. However these figures are for both the main types of banana produced: plantains & dessert. Plantains are for cooking; dessert are the sweeter, and for eating raw out of the skin. You can see that Ecuador, supplier of last week’s bananas, is the 5th largest producer; Cameroon is 9th.

 

# 1 India: 29,700,000 metric tonnes

# 2 Uganda: 11,100,000 metric tonnes

# 3 China: 10,700,000 metric tonnes

# 4 Philippines: 9,200,000 metric tonnes

# 5 Ecuador: 8,000,000 metric tonnes

# 6 Brazil: 7,300,000 metric tonnes

# 7 Indonesia: 6,100,000 metric tonnes

# 8 Colombia: 5,100,000 metric tonnes

# 9 Cameroon: 850,000 metric tonnes

# 10 Tanzania: 3,900,000 metric tonnes

 

In terms of exports the order is 1.Ecuador 2.Costa Rica 3.Colombia 4.Philippines 5.Guatemala

However as we go about our weekly shopping do we think about how the supermarkets are able to bring us this fruit at such a cheap price. My bunch of 5 bananas weighed almost spot on 1kg so about 200g each; they cost me £0.79 ($1.25). They’re very good value. But how is this possible?

Think about this – the journey time by sea, on one of the largest shipping lines in the world, is about 28/29 days from the port of Douala (Cameroon) to Felixstowe (UK). Bananas require a temperature-controlled container for transport to keep them fresh (13.5-15⁰C). They then have to have an artificial ripening process, as they’re shipped very green, followed by delivery across the UK to warehouses and stores that need the supplies. There are a lot of links in the chain from producer to consumer.

 

Today’s world production of bananas is controlled by 4 companies nicknamed “The Wild Bunch”: Chiquita, Dole, Del Monte, Noboa

 

On the website freshplaza.com/news there is a headline “UK Supermarket blamed” & “Documentary exposes exploitation of banana workers in Cameroon”. You can read about a Scottish film maker, Jan Nimmo who got access to some of the plantations in Cameroon. She reported on the adverse conditions that employees are having to work in. Perhaps this is why my bananas are cheap. The difficulty is in knowing whether it is the supermarkets that drive down the price they’re willing to pay to their suppliers or whether it is unscrupulous bosses at the supply end who force workers to accept low wages to maximise their own profits; or maybe it’s a bit of both.

Perhaps next time I go I’ll look for the ones with the Fairtrade stickers on. I read that Sainsbury’s switched to getting their bananas from only Fairtrade producers over 5 years ago. The benefits to the local communities where these agreements are in place really do make a difference and in some cases mean that producers no longer have to take risks crossing borders to get better prices for their goods. Fairtrade purchases by the supermarket, in the Windward Islands (Dominica, St Lucia, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines, Grenada), have resulted in local communities being able to buy computers for schools, fund scholarships, sponsor a school bus and bus shelters as well as enabling local farmers to invest back into their own businesses. It is reckoned that about 10 million Fairtrade bananas, from the Windward Islands and South America were consumed at the London Olympics.

 

Anyone fancy some Banana Trivia?

Here we go then:

 

1- Canadians eat approximately 3 billion bananas a year.

2- Bananas do not grow on trees. They grow on the largest grass in the world.

3- 90% of the world’s bananas are NOT grown for export

4. 99% of bananas grown for export are of the Cavendish variety.

5. Four million 40lb boxes of bananas are imported into North America every year.

6. In 1998, the entire banana crop of Honduras was wiped out by Hurricane Mitch.

7. Bananas are the fourth most important staple food crop in the world.

8. Bananas were first imported to the UK in 1878 from the Canary Islands by Fyffe, Hudson & Co

 

What about bananas in songs?

 

If you fancy watching this check it out. It’s the video for the song Juanita Banana. If you don’t think you can make it through the whole 2.5 minutes just go to the point where the lady starts wailing. It’s worth it just for that bit!

 

 

The song tells the story of a Mexican banana farmer’s daughter who has operatic ambitions and with a chorus which is an adaptation of Caro Nome from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto. Just the sort of subject for a song you’d think of writing – right?

 

You’ve got to have a watch of this one as it gives you the deep meaning lyrics. It’s the Banana Boat Song. I’m sure you’ll recognise it as soon as you hear the opening lines:

 

 

You think this is a joke song? Just wait till you see who’s covered it: Shirley Bassey, Harry Belafonte, a group called A Bunch Of Coconuts & Stan Freberg. It’s even been used in the film Beetlejuice.(Check out that version on Youtube if you’re interested.)

Also remember that 1967 album by the Velvet Underground & Nico with this cover:

 image

 

And finally – how about banana art? Check this one out:

 

http://www.jungilpark.com/banana-art.html

 

Then ask yourself – how long will this stuff last once the skin starts to age. It’s clever but it’s not going to last. I guess that’s why he’s got the pictures.

 

And all that from a tiny oval sticker on my bunch of bananas. Food for thought anyway!