All over the world banana is one of the most common fruit, you can see it in all supermarkets, in restaurants or cafeterias. Bananas are the world’s fourth most important crop after rice, wheat and maize, ensuring food security in developing countries. Bananas are a very good source of energy containing vitamin C, B6 and potassium and magnesium.
There are over 1000 varieties of bananas divided in 50 species, but there is only one favourite for global trade: Cavendish banana. Over 150 countries are growing one billion tonnes of bananas per year, India being in the top of producers with eleven million metric tonnes, followed by Brazil with six million metric tonnes tonnes and Ecuador with five million tonnes per year. But the countries that are exporting bananas have other ranking, Ecuador being the country that exports the most bananas worth $954 million per year, followed by Costa Rica who is exporting $564 million per year.
UK banana industry is worth £580 million annually, being the third most valuable product after petrol and lottery tickets.
Who would think that such a common and loved fruit can cause such big issues in the world? The globalization of the industry created a wide range of political, economic, social and environmental problems.
First problems appeared in late 1800s in Honduras when it was built the first railway system to connect Central America to Northern America facilitating banana transportation. A new opportunity has arisen for American businessmen who rapidly bought vast territories for producing bananas and so they started importing bananas into US. United Fruit Company (UFC) started controlling this trade and soon it was holding the best banana crops in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Between 1900 and 1930 banana trade went through a rapidly growth process, UFC was holding at that time 63% of the bananas exported from Latin America. As Latin countries had weak economy and corrupt government it was very easy for businessmen to buy the best fertile lands and to control everything regarding trading tariffs, paying wages and keeping prices low.
When Latin governments tried to take back the lands from the big corporation and give it back to the local farmers in 1950s, American government showed its power, helped by UFC, implementing democratic elections so that they could favour a president that would be easy to manipulate in agreeing with their economic and politic interests.
EU had trade agreements with former colonies from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (known as ACP countries), which were made to offer free access to European market and aid and in the same time EU was helping these countries to become independent in their economy.
In 1993, the Lome Convention was signed by EU and its partners. The document was about import policy, restricting banana trade from the Latin America countries to European market and allowing free trade to ACP countries. America was infuriated by the unfair tariffs as the biggest banana exporters such as Dole or Chiquita were based in USA. They have large interest to export in European market as it has World’s biggest banana market. USA and some Latin American countries took the issue to World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1996. Since then WTO is continuously putting pressure on EU to lower the tariffs to a fair value. The negotiations were failing to come to an end during the next 13 years till December 2009 when they set up the 2009 Geneva Banana Agreement. This document ruled EU to gradually reduce the tariffs from 176 euros per tonne to 114 euros per tonne during the next eight years. EU was concerned about signing this agreement as it would have a big impact on the ACP countries, considering that they provide 10% of all EU banana imports. “According to Geneva based International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, banana imports into the EU from the ACP countries could decline by 14% over the next seven years as a result of