This Place is Bananas!

Earlier today we visited a Dole banana plantation and it was super cool! Since we have already toured many coffee manufacturers, I couldn’t help but compare the two supply chains. One major difference that I noticed was the simplicity of the banana supply chain compared to that of coffee. Bananas simply have to be grown, harvested, washed, and packaged before they can be shipped off to consumers, whereas coffee has a few additional steps such as pulping, drying, peeling, and roasting. Typically, the manufacturing of coffee from growing the berries to packaging and selling is spread out between multiple companies. On the other hand, the banana supply chain tends to be condensed into one company because of the short process. Another difference between coffee and banana production is the manual labor that goes into harvesting bananas. Bunches of bananas can weigh over 100 lbs and are harvested and carried by workers!

Dole works hard to provide good conditions for their employees. Dole pays their workers about $28 per day along with an extra 50 cents per dollar that goes towards retirement and health insurance. Furthermore, they provide their employees with housing. This makes it seem like working on a banana plantation might be a better job than working on a coffee plantation because although both groups of employees get similar benefits, bananas are  harvested year round, whereas coffee is a seasonal crop. Additionally, Dole’s workers are paid a consistent salary, whereas coffee farmers are paid by how much they pick. Therefore, I think it’d be best to work for Dole because of the consistency in pay.

Dole also had some interesting practices in terms of sustainability, and they’re still working to improve. For instance, they use their reject bananas to make natural fertilizers. However, they still use plastic to protect their bananas from insects and bruising. Although the plastic is ISO certified and Dole recycles it after use, the company is still working to replace it with another material. Currently, they are working to create a new “plastic” material made from yucca.

One major challenge Dole faces on their banana plantation is the prevention of disease. Since they use in vitro fertilization to produce monocultures of bananas, any disease can be devastating to the entire plantation because all of the bananas are genetically identical. Some ways Dole tries to mitigate this is leaving one “sacrificial” banana at the bottom of each banana stem to attract fungus. Additionally, they do not allow visitors from countries in which the TR4 disease exists, and make all other visitors wash their hands and shoes before entering the factory.

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