With only three more days in Costa Rica we went to our last company tour, but instead of coffee, we ventured into the world of Dole bananas. The banana industry is extremely big and vastly interesting considering bananas are the fourth most consumed food in the world. Today we learned about how bananas are grown, packaged, and regulated. In comparing the banana industry with the coffee industry, there are many similarities and differences that highlight many important situations and topics in the production of natural foods.
To start, the supply chain of coffee and bananas are extremely similar. A company grows their product on a farm, transports it to be prepared for consumption, and then sells it to customers, stores, and companies. In the food industry, the consumers drive the market and set the standards for a company to thrive. This is where the banana and coffee industries diverge in production. While the coffee industry’s main goal is to keep their quality high which can be done by taking care of their coffee trees, the banana industry has a lot more regulations that need to be accounted for. In general, think of when you go to buy bananas, if the banana bunch has bruises or is too curved, you may refuse to eat those bananas and buy that bunch. All of the consumer’s needs must be considered, and this has effects of sustainability of the banana industry.
Costa Rican coffee farms are very sustainable and protective of their environment and communities. They more often than not always take quality over quantity, which in their case is more sustainable. On the other hand, the banana industry is less sustainable because in order to meet their consumer’s needs, plastic and lots of hard manual labor is needed. Alternatives for being more sustainable are being researched, but most of the solution end up costing a lot of money.
Another important topic in food industries is diseases and bugs. In recent years, both coffee and banana industries have been facing new diseases that could kill their crops and slow down production. For bananas, a business that grows off of cloning one singular banana plant, a disease could monumentally affect exports. In order to prevent this, both industries are sparing to cost to do research and protect the already existing plants.
In exploring the Dole plantation today, I learned a lot about the food industry and different types of production strategies. We, as consumers, drive the market, and all food companies try their best to meet our requests which may have affects on a company’s sustainability and working environment. In the end, while the banana industry is very important and interesting, I still love coffee and find that industry to be more riveting and exciting, especially because of their many research and sustainability initiatives.