We’ve all gone bananas
Kiwis eat 72 million kg of bananas a year.
What’s the most common product in a Kiwi supermarket? Clue: it’s yellow, curved and comes in its own packaging.
New Zealand imports more bananas per capita than any other developed country – 72 million kilograms a year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.
We spend more on bananas than any other fruit. Each household (there are about 1.7 million) eat their way through $130 of bananas a year, a total of more than $221 million. This is well ahead of apples, the second most popular fruit, which Kiwi households spend just over $60 on a year.
Dole NZ general manager Steve Barton says we rank with Sweden as one of bananas biggest fans: “It varies, but we generally eat around 18-20 kilos per person a year or about two bananas each a week - which is a lot of fruit.”
Barton says Dole sells around 2.8 million boxes (there are approximately 70 bananas in each) a year or 53,000 every week.
Of these about 500,000 boxes are Bobby Bananas, which grow at the lower end of the stem, are smaller and sweeter and perfect for school lunch boxes.
Barton says Kiwis’ love affair with bananas began during World War II. “During the war we were looking for nutritious fresh food and there was no possibility of importing a great deal of tropical fruit from anywhere other than the Pacific Islands.
“The banana was taken on board by Kiwis,” he says. “I think it had to do with our lifestyle – it’s an easy way to get out, play a game of golf, or go out and get on the farm with nutritious food in your back pocket.”
Statistics NZ says fresh bananas have been included in the consumer price index (CPI) family food basket since it was first published in 1949. Back then, the cost of bananas was weighted at 0.9 per cent of the food group. This has not changed much; their current weighting is 1 per cent.
While our prices are influenced by overseas freight prices, foreign exchange rates and overseas suppliers’ prices, they have become more affordable relative to other food items, according to Statistics NZ – with the amount of bananas available each week determining the price.
“Compared with Australia, which grows all its own bananas, banana prices in New Zealand have been more stable,” it says.
The Philippines has been the largest source of bananas since the early 1990s, but weather issues there in recent years means around 80 per cent are currently imported from Ecuador.
Dole's supplier, Stanfilco, is certified by Global GAP, an independent body which annually inspects farms and certifies responsible agricultural practices. Dole also has a longstanding association with the Rainforest Alliance, an international non-profit organisation that works to conserve biodiversity and promote the rights and wellbeing of workers, their families and communities.
Dole also imports and sells about 600,000 boxes of fresh pineapples a year all of which feature the alliance’s green frog seal. All Ecuador bananas feature the seal and Philippines bananas are going through the accreditation process.
Earlier this year Dole spearheaded the #followthefrog sustainability campaign in this country, focusing on helping to make it easier for consumers to choose responsibly sourced goods.
Alongside other well-known brands, Dole is working with the Sustainability Business Network to research solutions to Auckland’s current industrial food waste situation.
“Dole exists to produce fruit of the highest quality, but never at the expense of the environment. From the farm, all the way to the point of consumption and beyond, we are committed to sustainable, environmental practices for today and tomorrow,” says Barton.