Lingering banana production disruptions from hurricanes in 2011 have been complicated by ongoing cold weather and January flooding in growing regions, causing some suppliers to caution U.S. retailers to stay on top of ordering.
Two Midwest companies — Testa Produce Inc. in Chicago and Indianapolis Fruit Co. — issued urgent updates Feb. 15 about banana supplies.
Testa told customers to expect the shortages to last at least another week and advised them to “stay one to two days ahead” and to “buy turned product and ripen.”
Barbara Daly, Testa’s quality assurance manager, said Feb. 16 the company’s sources had been having supply trouble for about a week.
“People with ripening rooms are having a hard time keeping up,” Daly said. “Our biggest issue is that we can’t give our customers what they need to meet their demands.”
Retailers that have supply contracts appear to be faring better than wholesalers and foodservice suppliers.
Mike Siemienas, media relations spokesman for Supervalu in Eden Prairie, Minn., said all of the banners in the Supervalu family are receiving all of the bananas they need.
“I am hearing that there is a shortage, but it’s primarily with the secondary markets,” Siemienas said Feb. 16.
Tom Maston, a buyer for Royal Food Service in Atlanta, said Feb. 16 there is definitely a shortage, but his suppliers warned him more than a week earlier that it was coming.
“So far it hasn’t been a problem for us because I’ve sent an e-mail out to our salespeople warning them to not take on a lot of orders from customers we don’t normally deal with. We are being careful about buying and selling,” Maston said.
Royal Food provides about 1,000 to 1,300 boxes of bananas a week to customers, mostly schools.
Daly said Testa ships at least two pallets of bananas a day to the Chicago airports alone. She said demand has been normal for this time of year.
Indianapolis Fruit referenced January floods in Ecuador in its notice. The floods took out about 5,000 acres of bananas there, affecting supplies overall.
“Bananas are extremely tight, especially bananas with color,” according to the e-mailed statement from Indianapolis Fruit. “We are trying to source other fruit but everyone is in the same situation. We expect this tight supply situation to continue for five to six weeks.”