Day 9: Dole

              Though coffee plantations and banana plantations share the same country, there are still some differences between the two crops’ supply chains. The largest among these is the amount of vertical integration we’ve observed with both crops. For the coffee firms we have visited, there seemed to always be vertical integration between two levels or no vertical integration at all. This is exemplified by the roasting firms usually functioning as the supplier and the manufacturer as the beans they receive from the plantations are processed for manufacturing then immediately packaged and shipped to retailers. Another way this is exemplified is that the plantations who grow the coffee beans rarely roast the beans themselves, rather they send them off to a roasting and manufacturing facility. With Dole, however, we witnessed vertical integration between three levels. On the plantation that we visited today, they grow and harvest the bananas, process and clean the bananas, and package the bananas meaning that they function as the supplier’s supplier, the supplier, and the manufacturer. Outside of this main difference between coffee’s and banana’s supply chain, other differences are more technical. One these is the fact that the second step of the supply chain differs in its function for their respective plants. With coffee, the roasting process’s main function is to add the flavor to the beans with fully prepares them for manufacturing. With bananas, the cleaning process also prepares the bananas for manufacturing by ensuring they are safe to eat but does not do anything to add to the flavor of the fruit itself. Another difference between the two is how the products are shipped from step to step of the supply chain. With coffee, the beans usually have to travel pretty far to get to the roaster alone. The representative at Doka explained that the beans must travel via truck, train, boat, and truck once again before even getting to their roasters. From there, since most roasters seem to also function as manufacturers, the transition is usually just moving the beans from one part of the facility to another as we saw at 1820. With bananas, Dole just moves their bananas from step to step via their mule and pulley system or with water which is must less costly and quicker.

              After visiting Dole, I got the impression that their plantations are not quite as sustainable as the coffee plantations and roasting firms. While the company is taking steps towards eradicating this, plastic is major part of the company’s field operations as each bunch of bananas must be wrapped in plastic for a large portion of their time in the field. The presenter said that they recycle this plastic, but an alternative would be much better for the environment and he acknowledged that. On the other hand, the plastic does help mitigate the damages that the insects can do the bunches of bananas. Another problem banana plantations face is the vast amount of water they need to grow and maintain the herbs. To mitigate this problem, which is probably the most important problem they face, Dole chose to have their operation set up near Limon where there is over 16 feet of rain per year.

              If I were a worker, I would probably choose to work at a coffee plantation. Though the pay seems to be slightly lower on average, I feel that it evens out because of the additional benefits most coffee pickers receive like housing and transportation. This makes the problem a matter of preference. After walking through the grounds and seeing the equipment banana workers must operate and the knowing the weather conditions of the area, I feel that the banana plantation workers face a greater risk of injury on the job than coffee plantation workers do. With that being said, I’d choose to be a coffee worker.

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