Did you ever hear about the great banana shortage of (insert old timey date)? Me neither.
Many of us weren’t around when the catchy 1922 “Yes we have no bananas” song rocketed to no. 1 on the pop charts.
The lyrics told the story of a fruit store ran by a Greek who said “yes” to every question, even a query about a hard to find tropical fruit.
“He tells you
“Yes, we have no bananas
We have-a no bananas today.
We’ve stringbeans, and onions
Cabbageses, and scallions,
And all sorts of fruit and say
We have anold fashioned to-mah-to
A Long Island po-tah-to
But yes, we have no bananas.
We have no bananas today.”
And so on. Bananas are one of the great staples of the fresh produce department and are reliably cheap. It seems I typically see conventional bananas priced at near 50 cents per pound in my Midwest neighborhood.
The Packer recently covered Fresh Del Monte third quarter results, which were dimmed by what the company called one of the “industry’s worst oversupply of bananas in several years.”
Looking at banana prices in the Miami terminal market, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market News Service reports that average prices for 40-pound cartons of Honduras bananas dropped from $16.25 per carton on Aug. 5 to $15 per carton on Aug. 12. In recent weeks, Miami terminal market prices for bananas have been stable at $14.50 per carton. That is still higher than average prices earlier this year, which sunk to $13.50 per carton in January.
The USDA reported retail ad prices for bananas in the Midwest dipped as low as 18 cents per pound in late August.
U.S. per capita use of bananas is a whopping 27.55 pounds per person, nearly 10 pounds above apples and 20 pounds more than the per capita use of the surging avocado.
Though it seems the food industry swims in abundance and glut conditions, we are often reminded that feeding 9 billion people by 2050 will be a challenge.
We occasionally see press accounts that the cavendish banana - the banana variety we all eat - could be wiped out in the next few years because of the Black Sigatoka disease and the Foc Tropical Race 4, a strain of Panama disease.
So far, so good. In recent times consumers have not been stung by bananas shortages. That is a tribute to the efficiency and the expertise of Del Monte, Chiquita, Dole and others.
Yes, we have no banana shortage - and that’s a beautiful thing for consumers.