Sunday, 27 December 2015

hey mister tally man

Via the inestimable The Browser comes a really fascinating piece on the supply chain logistics of the banana trade and the demands it manufactured to satisfy. Like the Egg Council, Juan Valdez and the California Raisins, who really can be bullies and not just advocates for farmers, Big Fruit created various banana republics in the process of perfecting its delivery techniques, inciting coups throughout Central America and even precipitating the Cuban Missile Crisis and enduring tensions, all in the name of ripeness and minimal flecking.

The other aspect to this drama lies in the monoculture of the produce—at least as it’s presented to shoppers in the West. Whereas we might have an embarrassment of choice when it comes to apples and oranges, exotic bananas are all clones of one cultivar—threatened with extinction with the irreversible march of one fungal disease. The way bananas are marketed and grown make them especially susceptible to being wiped out by pandemics, and interestingly the type of banana consumed just one human generations had vastly different characteristics—fruitier and creamier and with a much slicker peel, and hence all those jokes about slipping on a discarded skin that seems physically impossible in the supermarkets of today.