Banana farmers, wholesalers, and researchers gathered in Miami this week to talk about challenges facing the ubiquitous yellow fruit. Costa Rica organized the event.
The Central American country exported over a billion dollars worth of bananas last year.
It is one of the main suppliers to U.S. supermarkets, with shipments arriving by boat to cold-storage ports in Tampa and Manatee County. "The banana is the lowest priced fresh fruit,” said Jorge Sauma, president of CORBANA. It is an NGO or non-governmental organization, that represents Costa Rica’s banana farmers.
Sauma said the emergence of grocery stores like Aldi, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s has led to a price war. U.S. shoppers pay about the same for a pound of bananas today as a decade ago. That hurts farmers, according to Sauma. “The weakest part of the chain is the grower,” he said.
Growers are also dealing with the effects of climate change, which has led to an increase in a fungal disease that devastates banana crops.