Comprehensive Overview of the Banana Industry

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The banana is a common fruit which is loved by many people. The original bananas have been grown and used since ancient times, even before rice. Although the banana grows vigorously in Africa, it is said to be native to East Asia and Oceania. India is the world’s largest banana producer, followed by China and the Philippines. However, the Philippines is one of the largest exporters of banana. It also means that the bananas you buy in your own country may have come from other countries, such as the Philippines. This goes to international trade.

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International trade is the exchange of services and goods between countries. This type of trade produces a world economy in which price or supply and demand influences and are affected by global events. This can help some developing countries and promote their economic development. From this also extended the situation of the transnational land deals and land grabbing, but also appeared the moral economy and fair trade. This paper will take the banana industry as the background to discuss the concept of power, exchange, place and space, as well as the impact of related events on the relevant people.

Trade between countries allows us to buy goods from other countries. As a result of international trade, the market contains greater competition, so prices are more competitive, thus bringing cheaper products to consumers. As Chinese demand for bananas has increased, they will choose to import from foreign countries. Another way to obtain bananas from other countries is through the phenomenon of ‘transnational land trade’ and ‘land grabs,’ in which ‘strong’ foreign private and public investors make land acquisitions in so-called ‘weak countries’. Chinese investors leased land in Laos for banana planting.

On the concept of space and mapping, each sector of the banana industry forms a network space. In the banana industry including banana workers, farm managers, food scientists, investors, market managers, cooperative companies, and transportation departments are linked, the bottom of each large department is divided into more small departments and related staff, different departments are assigned to different places, with different tasks and different goals. Forming a network between Laos and China. However, the Muang Long banana investment scene in Laos has a special network relationship. Investors include Chinese businessmen or small companies with long trading experience in the region, Chinese joint ventures Chinese and Lao businessmen, often relatives, Chinese farmers or individual investors with experience in banana cultivation in China, and a joint venture between a large agricultural commercial investor. Some of these investors have been living and doing business in Laos for several years, while others are married to Lao women and have joint ventures with their fathers or brothers. Although banana cultivation is carried out in the Lao region, a large proportion of the staff and investors are from China or have some relationship with the Chinese among them. Each individual division has a special network. Foucault understood that power can be embodied by things that are constantly visible. He studied panopticon as an example, Panopticon consists of a circle of cells surrounding the central guard tower. The prisoners in the cell were always exposed to the watchful eyes of the guards inside the tower, however, since they could not see the conditions inside the tower themselves, they could never be sure whether they were being watched or not. The guards inside the tower can exercise their powers to monitor the prisoners, but the prisoners cannot detect them.

The aforementioned banana industry in Laos also has power issues. Several banana investors and plantation managers interviewed complained about the bureaucracy and high costs of obtaining work permits from day-to-day managers. Three legally registered companies act as intermediaries for other unregistered investors, although they are in fact plantation owners, often absconding from plantation locations. As a result, the total number of investors operating in the region is unknown. Through interviews with villagers, brokers, investors and government officials, investors negotiated land acquisitions directly from the village level, and the government did not step in until the contract was finalized. In some cases, investors pay land deposits and start planting before applying for permits. Some of the investors and managers do not have direct contact with companies and workers. Some investors are unregistered, and farmers in banana fields know little about them, while these unregistered investors can exercise their power behind their backs.

In the same event, because of the planting need, investors aim for accessible and fertile lowlands for rice production. Therefore, rice paddies have quickly turned into banana plantations throughout the Muang Long region, as well as in the neighboring Muang Sing region. Due to Luang Namtha province was designated as a major rice-producing region, the rice-to-banana shift has caused much resentment among the provincial government, leading the provincial governor in 2011 to issue a province-wide ban on the planting of new bananas on rice land. But some regional officials stress that the informal negotiating tactics employed by investors, coupled with the economic incentives for farmers to lease their land, make it difficult to control the growth of plantations.

Corruption and customer relations between some investors and senior district officials have also been noted. This example shows some investors using informal methods to gain and use power. Driven by this power, local rice production began to decrease due to large-scale banana planting. Informal negotiations and the rapid implementation of the banana fields have made it difficult for authorities to intervene in the project. Combined with the fact that investors prepaid the villagers for their money, the use of intermediaries and the outsourcing of some of their management, there is a lack of transparency about the banana industry and the difficulty of supervising them. While the renovation of the banana fields also has some impact on the local environment and soil quality, which is also a concern for the authorities and villagers. However, it is not just a negative. Although corruption in the local government has led to the failure of a law banning banana farms, the economic benefits of short-term operations by villagers and investors have outweighed concerns about potential problems, and the revenue is still growing, which is good for local villagers.

The banana trade began long ago. On the concept of exchange, Bananas from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, Guadeloupe and Martinique to Windward Islands are usually exported to the UK. Imperial exchange relations and moral economy from the mid-1950s, developed, windward bananas shipped to the UK via British shipping company Fyffes once a week, although the same fleet came to Saint Vincent and other West Indies with British manufacturers such as Guinness stout and canned mutton. The quality of bananas is also guaranteed, and they are well preserved. From picking to reaching the port, they are just ripe. This is certainly a factor in establishing this agricultural food network between the UK and the wind. Consumer and market-driven fascination with “exotic” foods like bananas also played a role. Since bananas are easy to transport in the UK and the market is good, companies such as Fyffes have decided to transport bananas one way and manufactured goods another, building a relationship that relies on food imports that continues to this day. The supply network between Saint Vincent and the United Kingdom, involving British consumers and Vincentian producers, also continues, with Geest Line sailing once a week to Saint Vincent, from goods shipped from Britain to Saint Vincent and then back to the United Kingdom, which is now mostly fair-trade bananas (Wilson &Jackson, 2016). Because of the banana in this transport network have market and frequent transport advantages, led to the exchange of other goods.

International trade in bananas continues and demand for them continues to grow. Consumers are also interested in imported goods from abroad. And the transnational land transaction can satisfy the interests of land acquirers to some extent and also promote the economic development of local people. Transnational trade can also be driven by one industry to multiple industries. However, there will also be some social and environmental problems, such as the situation in the banana fields of Chinese investors in Laos. For those informal negotiations and some unregistered or informal investors and the corruption of local officials led to the inability to reform and supervise the banana field. In the future, there may be some problems, which will affect the industrial development and the life of farmers. The impact on the environment and soil could also be a problem in the future. The development is still going on. Although the current development situation is relatively good, it cannot ensure the consequences of these hidden dangers in the future. I hope the banana industry can develop well and the potential problems can be solved as soon as possible.

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