Banana prices fluctuate across the globe as market conditions and supply and demand dynamics change. In the Netherlands, green bananas are in high demand, causing higher prices for this type of fruit. In Germany, the market for bananas is unexciting, but prices have been seen to increase and decrease in a unpredictable fashion. Austria reports stable prices for bananas, while in the United Kingdom, tariffs on Nigerian bananas are set to be lifted. In Italy, the market is complicated due to low consumption and high costs, while in Spain, an oversupply of bananas from the Canary Islands has forced the destruction of part of the harvest. In South Africa, weather conditions have resulted in an increase of large bananas, but with challenges in selling the overdeveloped fruit.
Netherlands: Good prices for green bananas
The January month, with the new supermarket contracts, traditionally causes a stir in the market. With the somewhat more irregular supply after the Christmas week, there are plenty of bananas on the market, but they are not in abundance. This makes for a good market for green bananas, with some paying more for green than yellow bananas at the moment, according to specialists in the Netherlands.
Germany: Unexciting but unpredictable banana market
Banana sales were relatively unexciting, prices developed differently though: Mostly they tended slightly upwards. However, there were also price reductions, although a clear line could not be discerned.
For both premium bananas as well as second and third brands there were price increases as well as price decreases, mostly depending on availability and, of course, demand.
According to a market expert on bananas from Northern Germany, the high demand for bananas during the two Covid-19 years is gone, but more bananas are being bought than in 2019. This applies to conventional and organic bananas. Due to firmer prices, sales are higher than in the previous year. Among the top 10 most purchased fruits in Germany, bananas have knocked apples off their throne in 2022 and are in first place in the ranking. This has not happened for many years and is an exception. Calculated per kilo, bananas are very cheap. In addition, consumption of apples has been declining for some time.
The import price to the EU market has not been as high as in 2022 for a long time, with some weeks paying close to 16 euros/colli. The EU average price in 2022 was around 14 euros. The last time there was a similarly high price was in 2015, due to higher freight and bunker costs and lower production in the Latin American growing regions, especially in Ecuador. However, due to the long-term contracts with the food retailers with mostly annual contracts, the prices could not be passed on.
There are still chains that advertise banana prices of 1 euro per kg, even though this is no longer possible given the cost prices, but in general the prices are higher than in previous years, even in promotions. Premium goods in standard programmes now cost over 2 euro per kg.
Austria: Banana prices remain stable
Large quantities of fruit from overseas, including bananas, are currently being delivered to the wholesale market in Vienna and are being traded at stable prices. The prices per kilo for bananas are currently € 1.28 – € 1.56 at the wholesale market, € 2.80 – € 3.20 in the specialised retail trade and € 1.49 – € 2.29 in the food retail.
United Kingdom: Tariffs on Nigerian bananas to be lifted
The price of bananas coming into the UK fluctuates each week, last week the biggest change was in bananas from Guatemala where the price increased by 11% from £0.82 to £0.91 per kg. There were also slight increases on bananas arriving from Costa Rica and Ecuador with 3% and 4% respectively. Rates from other sources either remained the same or were unavailable from DEFRA’s report on imported banana prices at Birmingham and London wholesales markets. The UK has announced that it will eliminate tariffs on bananas from Nigeria.
Italy: Complicated banana market
It is currently a complicated moment for the banana market in Italy. An operator in the north of Italy, who imports and ripens the product, says that on the one hand consumption is low and retailers have slowed demand. On the other hand, costs are still high even if, fortunately, energy costs have returned to more sustainable levels. The latest information received speaks of very low availability in Costa Rica, Ecuador and Guatemala, resulting in higher producer prices. Among other things, the dollar has revalued in recent months and this has caused reduced margins for importers. The operator says that a box of bananas (about 20 kg) now costs €2 more than in the past. “For each kilogram of product this is only a few cents, but retailers do not even recognise these increases. Instead, both the work of the farmers in Central America and that of the ripeners in Italy must be respected.”
Regarding plantains, a wholesaler from northern Italy stated: “Between October and December 2022, prices exceeded €50/pack (22 kg) compared to the average €24 of the same period in 2021. Now consumption has dropped and prices have gone back to previous levels. Quotations at origin, however, have remained very high. The only weapon we have at the moment is halting or reducing imports. We are only registering 50% of incoming volumes. The produce comes from Colombia and Ecuador. The Colombian products remains very expensive, but volumes and quality are low. Over three weeks, the price of the Ecuadorian produce dropped by 50% instead.”
According to data from the GfK Consumer Panel, more than 20 million households in Italy bought bananas at least once in the last 12 months ending November 2022 (80.9%). This is actually a declining figure over the last two years.
Spain: Excess Canary Island bananas destroyed
The supply of bananas from the Canary Islands is currently higher than the demand, which is forcing the sector to destroy part of the harvest in order to find more balance. Until October 2022, the situation was the opposite, after quite some months in row with scarce production due to the effects of a volcanic eruption on La Palma island. Then, from October on the volumes of Canary bananas started to grow and the prices went down on the wholesale markets, except for the retailers, that remained above 3 euros per kilo until the end of 2022. The high prices on the shelves slowed down the consumption, but from January 2023 onwards prices went down below 2 euros per kilo and slowly boosted the demand. The production gap of Canary bananas caused by the volcano is already behind us, although there are still some batches affected by the ashes. Nevertheless the quality of Canary bananas in general is not high at the moment.
On the other hand, the price of imported bananas is higher than the ones of the Canary bananas at the moment, which is slowing down the consumption, particularly on the wholesale markets. Part of the imported banana shipments are being diverted to the North of Europe, where the markets are currently better.
South Africa: Weather increases share of large bananas
After years of reducing banana hectares in South Africa, making way for mostly avocados, a number of growers have, over the past three years, again been putting in bananas as a quick cash crop.
Over the past year banana supplies have been high (some South African farmers have re-established banana blocks) and there was a 12% increase in bananas delivered to the market over the past week.
A recent heat wave in Mozambique, South Africa and Eswatini has caused fruit to swell out and develop very quickly, while widespread rain since has resulted in incidents of fruit cracking in-transit or during ripening.
“Ten to fourteen days after the heatwave we start receiving more overdeveloped fruit,” says a trader. “We get more extra-large fruits which are more difficult to sell.”
Retailers and wholesalers use medium and large bananas for prepacking, while the hawker trade looks for units per carton, so neither are very fond of the extra-large bananas of which there has been an oversupply for the whole summer.
“We sell the extra-large bananas for very low prices,” he remarks. “Demand is very tempered. I’d say it’s around 60% of what it should be.”
Sales have been slow but they are hoping that supplies will drop towards autumn with a concomitant increase in price.
Good quality medium bananas sell for around R120 (6.35 euros) per 18kg box, around R130 (6.9 euros) to R140 for a box of large bananas and R140 to R150 (7.97 euros) for extra-large bananas. Second grade bananas can go from R90 (4.7 euros) to R120 for a 18kg box at the moment.
The average price for first grade bananas is R7 (0.37 euro) per kilogram.
China: China fortifies place as global banana importer
Among Southeast Asian countries, China continued to register rapid growth in its banana imports in 2022. China Customs data shows that banana imports went up by 2.5% in the first nine months of 2022. In total, China imported around 2 million metric tonnes of bananas last year, accounting for just over 10% of global banana imports. Vietnam and Cambodia are key regional suppliers. Imports from the Philippines, the largest banana supplier to China, went down by 8%. In addition, Cambodia’s total banana exports decreased 12% in the first 10 months of 2022, caused by weaker exports to China. China is Cambodia’s largest banana importer, and strict Covid-19 measures implemented throughout 2022 complicated shipment to the country.
Ecuador’s total banana exports also declined in 2022. Yet, Richard Salazar, Executive Director of the Banana Exporters Association (Acorbanec), sees potential in the Chinese market: “A new trade agreement between China and Ecuador will lower tariffs paid on banana exports from 10% to 0% between now and 10 years. Currently we send 3%, equal to 10.5 million cases to China. We expect this volume to quadruple with the new tariff agreements”.
North America: Low supplies of bananas expected to continue
Supplies of bananas coming into North America continue to be low and will likely stay that way until next month. “Stem counts are low so supplies are somewhere between 15-20 percent lower than they should be,” says one shipper.
Supplies have been low since November and by the end of December, they were particularly tight. “This will probably stay tight until the beginning of March. Then, after Easter, it looks like it will go down again,” he says, noting that, close to Easter, growers often preharvest as labor is difficult to find that week. That is also the time of year when rain in some areas affects supplies.
There are a combination of reasons why supplies are low out of multiple growing regions, including Mexico, Guatemala and Ecuador. Along with supply chain issues, fertilizer costs have spiked so growers have cut back on new plantations. He estimates the industry is down 5-6 million boxes of bananas throughout the Americas.
At the same time, this is when banana demand strengthens following healthy starts to the new year and children being back in school.
Collectively, this means pricing is strong on bananas. “We were selling fruit in Mexico City for $17 when generally it’s $10-$11. Pricing in some markets in the United States were $24 for spot prices,” he says.
Annual contracts are also seeing stronger pricing. “The contracts in North America that we know of are all up about $1-$1.50. That always pushes up the spot market prices as well,” he says.
South America: 2023 starts with the forecast of less fruit in the first four months
Banana exports from Ecuador accumulated from January to December 2022 stood at 332.79 million boxes, decreasing by 12.16% compared to shipments in 2021. 26.11% of the exported fruit went to the European Union (-15.36%); 22.31% towards Russia (-2.17%); 16.46% towards the Middle East (+4.26%); 9.38% towards the United States (-17.66%); 7.63% towards the Southern Cone (-2.25%); 5.17% (-14.46%) were exported to East Asia; 4.63% towards Africa (-40.76%); 3.25% was exported to Central Asia (+30.94%); 2.44% towards Eastern Europe (-57.57%); 1.26% was exported to the United Kingdom (-13.39%); 0.82% (-20.04%) to Oceania (New Zealand); 0.50% (-6.89%) to EFTA (Norway); 0.02% to Canada (-41.56%); and 0.02% to other markets.
As explained by Acorbanec, the reduction in exports is based on different causes, including the increase in production costs, lower international demand, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine (which generated an oversupply in other markets) or the global inflationary context; to which must be added the impact of weather factors.
“In Ecuador there is less fruit compared to the last 3 years. The sheaths to be harvested for the following 12 weeks maintain the marked trend of production drops, and it is estimated that it will affect the fruit inventory at the beginning of the year 2023.”
In fact, based on banana blossom inventories in the last weeks of 2022, a drop in banana production of 8.10% is expected in January, which would result in 2.9 million fewer boxes compared to 2022, with 8 2 million boxes per week. In February the drop is estimated at 5.29% (1.8 million fewer boxes than in 2022) with an estimated 8.2 million boxes per week. In March, the drop in production would be 5.53% (1.7 million fewer boxes), with a forecast of 5.7 million boxes per week. Finally, it is projected that in April the year-on-year drop in production could be 4.01% (2.7 million fewer boxes), with the projection of having 7.9 million boxes per week.
Australia: Challenging situations on market but positivity prevails
Recent wet weather in Far North Queensland caused only small disruptions to banana supply, where transport was affected. An Australian banana industry body says were no ongoing issues from the most recent event, and there are plenty of bananas available for consumers. In addition, bananas are grown in other areas of Australia, albeit on a smaller scale and Growers in Western Australia, for example, are experiencing “fantastic growing conditions”.
The industry body reports there has been challenges for growers too, with the rising cost of production and workforce issues, which continue to pose serious issues to industry. While on the marketing side, another industry body has introduced the Champion Banana for those having trouble getting back into routine so early in the year. With the help of Olympic champion Jana Pittman, the Champion Banana is focussed on promoting bananas as a healthy fuel for back-to-school.
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