A History Of Bananas

Bananas are indigenous to Asia and The Middle East. They were brought to the new world in the 15th and 16th centuries. Banana plantations started to pop up in Latin America and The Caribbean. It was after the Civil War in America from 1861 to 1865 that Americans started to have a taste for Bananas.

A History Of Bananas Told Through Business

Lorenzo Dow Baker, A history of bananas

It was in 1870 that the first company was started in America dedicated to the importing of bananas. Lorenzo Dow Baker was the first to import from the fields from Jamaica to Boston, selling them on the docks. Born in 1840, Baker is credited with starting the modern banana production and importation industry. He created the Boston Fruit Company with a local grocery wholesaler. It was the invention of the steamship that cut the travel time for bananas from the Caribbean in half. Giving the people of North America a much fresher product in 1870.

Bananas Become Popular In America

At the World’s Fair in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell stole the show. His invention of the telephone brought visitors from around the world. It was the start of a new age. Somewhat forgotten to time has been another World’s Fair display. A few hundred feet away from the telephone presentation and located in the Horticultural Hall. It was a banana tree. The tree was for most people the first time they have ever seen a banana in North America. The exotic fruits that the tree produced were sold for 10 cents a bushel.

The Tropical Trading And Transport Company had been set up a few years after Baker began his banana-importing business. In due time, the two companies began fighting for control of the American banana market. It was this competition that led Tropical Trading to build plantations in Costa Rica. There was a project in the 1890s to connect Costa Rica to North America using a railway that would cut down the time from shipping on boats. Specifically, the Costa Rican government had failed to continue financing the projected railway, the land and ownership were given to the Tropical Trading And Transport Company if they finished the railroad tracks. With this deal, the railroad was able to be finished. A history of bananas shows that as more of this product came by train to New Orleans the entire city would grow with it.

As a result, the project left the company so in debt that the Tropical Trading And Transport Company and the Boston Fruit Company merged into the United Fruit Company.

A Monopoly On Bananas During The 20th Century

The United Fruit Company began to acquire huge amounts of land in Central and South America during the 20th Century. Creating huge banana plantations that required massive amounts of labor and farmers. Specifically, Honduras, Guatemala, and Columbia. In 1900, The United Fruit Company controlled 80% of the American market. Bananas were then and are still cheaper in America than fruit grown locally in North America like apples and oranges.

The term ‘Banana Republic’ was coined during this era. The United Fruit Company would use its influence with the United States government to put pressure on the South American countries that did not cooperate. The United Fruit Company would get involved in local and national elections. This came to a head in 1954 when the CIA conducted a covert operation to remove the democratically elected, left-wing, government of president Jacobo Árbenz.

In brief, the platform of the Jacobo Árbenz election was to begin to charge the banana exporter which owned 40 percent of the Guatemalan farmland to pay an equal amount in taxes. United Fruit’s efforts to back a military coup were successful. Provided that challenging history, the dictatorship lasted in Guatemala until 1991. As a result, similar stories can be told in a more detailed telling of the history of bananas from the countries of Costa Rica and Honduras.

The Brand Of Chiquita

In conclusion, today’s banana laborers are somewhat less heavily exploited, but the costs of the required labor in the developing world are still low. In reality, these American companies still have intact political influence and the infrastructure networks they began building a century ago. Given those core reasons, bananas are so inexpensive compared with homegrown crops.

Today, United Fruit sells these bananas in America, and around the world, under the brand name, Chiquita. They are currently selling the best-selling fruit and the fourth most valuable crop behind, rice, wheat, and corn. Chiquita sells customers the banana variety called the Cavendish. Without a doubt, it is the Cavendish that is prized for keeping its freshness, looking appealing, and being resistant to many diseases that commonly strike banana crops. Undeniably, resistance to disease is key since Cavendish bananas are grown worldwide. A history of bananas could not be told without mentioning the ubiquity of the Chiquita sticker on most bananas purchased in American supermarkets.

As we sell for the Importers of bananas, we sell a Cavendish banana that has been peeled, sliced, and dried. In fact, the bananas are sourced from Asia where the number one and two exporters of bananas are India and China respectively. We sell both a sweetened banana chip and an unsweetened banana chip. Certainly, the low prices mean that bananas will continue to be popular for nutrition and value in American supermarkets.

Read the Nutritional Benefits of Bananas next.

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