Banana production in Honduras

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Bananas are one of Honduras's main exports Colbanana04.jpg
Bananas are one of Honduras's main exports

Banana production in Honduras plays an important role in the economy of Honduras. In 1992, the revenue generated from banana sales amounted to US$287 million and along with the coffee industry accounted for some 50% of exports. [1] Honduras produced 861,000 tons of bananas in 1999. The two corporations, Chiquita Brands International and the Dole Food Company are responsible for most Honduran banana production and exports. [1]

Economy of Honduras

The economy of Honduras is based mostly on agriculture, which accounts for 14% of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013. Leading export coffee accounted for 22% of total Honduran export revenues. Bananas, formerly the country's second-largest export until being virtually wiped out by 1998's Hurricane Mitch, recovered in 2000 to 57% of pre-Mitch levels. Cultivated shrimp is another important export sector. Since the late 1970s, towns in the north began industrial production through maquiladoras, especially in San Pedro Sula and Puerto Cortés.

Banana edible fruit

A banana is an edible fruit – botanically a berry – produced by several kinds of large herbaceous flowering plants in the genus Musa. In some countries, bananas used for cooking may be called "plantains", distinguishing them from dessert bananas. The fruit is variable in size, color, and firmness, but is usually elongated and curved, with soft flesh rich in starch covered with a rind, which may be green, yellow, red, purple, or brown when ripe. The fruits grow in clusters hanging from the top of the plant. Almost all modern edible seedless (parthenocarp) bananas come from two wild species – Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. The scientific names of most cultivated bananas are Musa acuminata, Musa balbisiana, and Musa × paradisiaca for the hybrid Musa acuminata × M. balbisiana, depending on their genomic constitution. The old scientific name for this hybrid, Musa sapientum, is no longer used.

Chiquita Brands International Swiss company that distributes produce

Chiquita Brands International Sàrl, formerly known as Chiquita Brands International Inc., is a Swiss producer and distributor of bananas and other produce. The company operates under a number of subsidiary brand names, including the flagship Chiquita brand and Fresh Express salads. Chiquita is the leading distributor of bananas in the United States.



Honduras began exporting bananas in the late nineteenth century, and the trade grew rapidly. Initially, in the 1870s most banana production was confined to the Bay Islands, serious production did not begin on the mainland until about 1880. [2] The US consul reported that in 1894 goods worth almost $350,000 were exported to the United States through Puerto Cortés, the region's main port, and by 1903 exports had almost tripled to over $900,000. Much of these exports came from the growing banana trade; between 1894 and 1903 the trade had grown almost four-fold from somewhat over 600,000 stems to over two million. Shipping capacity increased as well, from four steamers a month to the United States, to 18. The choice of US destination ports expanded from just New Orleans to include Mobile, Philadelphia and Boston. [3]

Bay Islands Department Place in Honduras

The Bay Islands is a group of islands off the coast of Honduras. Collectively, the islands form one of the 18 Departments of Honduras. The departmental capital is Roatan, on the island of Roatán.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Puerto Cortés town in Cortés, Honduras

Puerto Cortés, originally known as Puerto de Caballos, is a city on the north Caribbean coast of Honduras, right on the Laguna de Alvarado, north of San Pedro Sula and east of Omoa, with a natural bay. The present city was founded in the early colonial period. It grew rapidly in the twentieth century, thanks to the then railroad, and banana production. In terms of volume of traffic the seaport is the largest in Central America and the 36th largest in the world. As of 2014, Puerto Cortés has a population of some 200,000.

The initial growth in trade was from local banana growers. An 1899 census showed northern Honduras had some 1,000+ people in the region between Puerto Cortés and La Ceiba (and as far inland as San Pedro Sula) growing bananas, most of them on small holdings. [4] This numerous class was able to expand production, take over communal lands and win the political struggle with cattle ranchers over land control in the early decades of the twentieth century. [5]

La Ceiba Place in Atlántida, Honduras

La Ceiba is a port city on the northern coast of Honduras in Central America. It is located on the southern edge of the Caribbean, forming part of the south eastern boundary of the Gulf of Honduras. With an estimated population of over 200,000 living in approximately 170 residential areas, it is the third largest city in the country and the capital of the Honduran department of Atlántida. La Ceiba was officially founded on 23 August 1877. The city was named after a giant ceiba tree which grew near the old dock. The dock itself finally fell into the sea in late 2007. The city has been officially proclaimed the "Eco-Tourism Capital of Honduras" as well as the "Entertainment Capital of Honduras". Every year, on the third or fourth Saturday of May, the city holds its famous carnival to commemorate Isidore the Laborer. During this time, the city is host to approximately 500,000 tourists.

San Pedro Sula Place in Cortés, Honduras

San Pedro Sula is the capital of Cortés Department, Honduras. It is located in the northwest corner of the country in the Sula Valley, about 50 kilometres (31 mi) south of Puerto Cortés on the Caribbean Sea. With a census population of 719,063 in 2013, and 1,445,598 people living in its metropolitan area in 2010, it is the nation's primary industrial center and second largest city after the capital Tegucigalpa.

In the early years of the industry, banana growers delivered their fruit to the coast where steamers from a variety of US-based shippers purchased them. However, the steamship companies gradually merged until only a handful remained, and these were soon dominated by the Vaccaro brothers of New Orleans, who in 1899 founded the Standard Fruit and Steamship Company which eventually became Dole. Because northern Honduras had a poorly developed transportation network, only farms located along major streams, and the few existing railroads in the immediate vicinity of the coast could viably participate in the export trade. Thus, the steamship companies needed to invest in a local infrastructure of railroads that would expand the area available for cultivation. By 1902 local railroad lines were being constructed on the Caribbean coast to accommodate expanding banana production. [6]

New Orleans Largest city in Louisiana

New Orleans is a consolidated city-parish located along the Mississippi River in the southeastern region of the U.S. state of Louisiana. With an estimated population of 393,292 in 2017, it is the most populous city in Louisiana. A major port, New Orleans is considered an economic and commercial hub for the broader Gulf Coast region of the United States.

The Honduran government, operating on Liberal economic policies that had been in place since 1876, made significant concessions of land and tax exemption to anyone who would open up agricultural land. While some Honduran producers were able to take advantage of these opportunities, the most significant concessions went to US-based companies that had the capital to purchase and develop land quickly. [7] Companies like the Tela Railroad Company were granted land concessions in exchange for building railroad lines. In its 1912 concession, the Tela Railroad Company received 6,000 hectares of national land (that is land that was deemed vacant) for every 12 kilometers of track they laid, on the route from Tela to El Progresso, laid out in alternate blocks on both sides of the rail lines. [8] [9]

After the first concessions in 1912, US concerns achieved more or less complete control of the productive alluvial plains of Honduras' Atlantic coast. The area around Puerto Cortés was dominated by the Cuyamel Fruit Company, the La Ceiba region by Standard Fruit, and Tela and Trujillo were controlled by United Fruit's subsidiaries, the Tela Railroad Company and the Trujillo Railroad Company. [10] By 1929, the United Fruit Company operated in over 650,000 acres (2,600 km2) of the country and controlled the major ports. [11]

Cuyamel Fruit Company, formerly the Hubbard-Zemurray Steam Ship Company, was an American agricultural corporation operating in Honduras from 1911 until 1929, before being purchased by the United Fruit Company. Samuel Zemurray, a Jewish Russian immigrant to the United States, founded Cuyamel to export bananas and sugar from the northwestern Cortés region of Honduras to international markets. Zemurray would later become the head of the United Fruit Company. Both Cuyamel and United Fruit are corporate ancestors of the modern-day firm Chiquita Brands International.

Initially, Honduran producers focused on growing the Gros Michel type of bananas, which had important characteristics that made them easy to store and ship and appealed to consumers in North American markets. However in the early 1920s banana-producing areas began suffering from a blight known as the "Panama Disease" which, combined with soil exhaustion from monocrop agriculture, led to a production decline in many parts of northern Honduras. The companies sought to restore production by rerouting railroads and renegotiating concessions so to bring more virgin land into cultivation. In addition they began to replace the Gros Michel with the Cavendish variety, which had some resistance to the disease. [12]

Political Implications

General Sierra's efforts to perpetuate himself in office led to his overthrow in 1903 by General Manuel Bonilla, who proved to be an even greater ally of the banana companies than Sierra had been. Companies gained exemptions from taxes and permission to construct wharves and roads, as well as permission to improve interior waterways and to obtain charters for new railroad construction. [13]

At one time the American government trained the Honduran army and air force to protect the supremacy of the banana companies operating in the country. [11] The growth of banana production in Honduras soon saw the industry constituting some 88% of Honduran exports at its all-time peak, centering the economic activity of the country almost entirely on the Atlantic coast region, with the economic center at the coastal city of San Pedro Sula rather than Tegucigalpa.

Location of Trujillo and the Bay Islands as the centre of Honduran coastal banana production TrujilloDOT.JPG
Location of Trujillo and the Bay Islands as the centre of Honduran coastal banana production

The Honduran banana industry employed a significant Garifuna workforce from the Bay Islands off Trujillo and in 1901 the government gave concessions for them to use over 7,000 hectares for banana cultivation. However in practice it was impossible to protect all of this land for its given purpose and corruption saw a local military commander in Trujillo, Colonel Gustavo Alvarez, squander 2,000 hectares of land allocated to the Garifuna and give the land to the wealthy landowners. [11]

In 1964, Castle & Cooke bought out the Standard Fruit Company, and concentrated on the production of bananas and pineapples under the Dole label in Honduras. [11] In September 1974, Hurricane Fifi devastated some 60% of Honduras' agricultural production, and many of the plantations had to be abandoned, seriously affecting the economy. In response, the redundant plantation workers formed the Las Isletas Peasants Enterprise, where they harvested the bananas independently and reaped the profits, producing one million boxes of bananas in 1976 and four million in 1977. Las Isletas attempted to sell the fruit directly through the Union of Banana Exporting Countries at one stage, resulting in the arrest of 200 militant members of Las Isletas and a raid on the association's headquarters under pressure from the Standard Fruit Company, who feared being outlawed by the process. [11]

In the mid-1990s, the Honduran economy went into severe recession, which hit the banana and coffee industries hard and sending world prices soaring. [14] Although the economy recovered significantly in 1996, the banana industry in Honduras was struck hard by the lasting impression of Hurricane Mitch in late 1998, a Category Five Hurricane considered the worst in 200 years, with winds reaching 200 mph (320 km/h) and inundating land with excessive precipitation drowning many of the crops. Hurricane Mitch is believed to have destroyed over 50%, possibly as high as 80%, of the banana and coffee crops in 1998, costing an estimated $3 billion in damage. [14]

Since 2000 the industry has recovered, although the country is still one of the poorest in Central America. [14]

In 2003, the News Scientist reported that global banana production was under threat by disease and may be wiped out within ten years if preventative measures are not taken to protect against it. Scientists from the banana industry in Honduras responded to the potential crisis by implementing new large-scale breeding schemes in a new FHIA variety. This FHIA banana crop is resistant to major diseases and pests, but is also highly productive and efficient. The scheme in Honduras is financed by the multinational United Brands. [15]

Related Research Articles

Honduras was already occupied by many indigenous peoples when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. The western-central part of Honduras was inhabited by the Lencas, the central north coast by the Tol, the area east and west of Trujillo by the Pech, the Maya and Sumo. These autonomous groups maintained commercial relationships with each other and with other populations as distant as Panama and Mexico.

United Fruit Company American corporation

The United Fruit Company was an American corporation that traded in tropical fruit, grown on Latin American plantations, and sold in the United States and Europe. The company was formed in 1899, from the merger of Minor C. Keith's banana-trading concerns with Andrew W. Preston's Boston Fruit Company. It flourished in the early and mid-20th century, and it came to control vast territories and transportation networks in Central America, the Caribbean coast of Colombia, Ecuador, and the West Indies. Though it competed with the Standard Fruit Company for dominance in the international banana trade, it maintained a virtual monopoly in certain regions, some of which came to be called banana republics, such as Costa Rica, Honduras, and Guatemala.

Samuel Zemurray was a businessman who made his fortune in the banana trade. He founded the Cuyamel Fruit Company, and later became head of the United Fruit Company, the world's most influential fruit company at the time. Both companies played highly controversial roles in the history of several Latin American countries and had a significant influence on their economic and political development.

Tela Place in Atlántida, Honduras

Tela is a town in Honduras on the northern Caribbean coast. It is located in the department of Atlantida.

Manuel Bonilla President of Honduras

General Manuel Bonilla Chirinos was President of Honduras from 13 April 1903 to 25 February 1907, and again from 1 February 1912 to 21 March 1913. He had previously served as Vice President of Honduras from 1895 to 1899.

Banana Wars actions involving the United States in Central America and the Caribbean

The Banana Wars were the occupations, police actions, and interventions on the part of the United States in Central America and the Caribbean between the end of the Spanish–American War in 1898 and the inception of the Good Neighbor Policy in 1934. These military interventions were most often carried out by the United States Marine Corps, which developed a manual, The Strategy and Tactics of Small Wars (1921) based on its experiences. On occasion, the Navy provided gunfire support and Army troops were also used.

Gros Michel banana

Gros Michel, often known as Big Mike, is an export cultivar of banana and was, until the 1950s, the main variety grown. The physical properties of the Gros Michel make it an excellent export produce; its thick peel makes it resilient to bruising during transport and the dense bunches that it grows in make it easy to ship.

Banana republic political science term for a politically unstable country

In political science, the term banana republic describes a politically unstable country with an economy dependent upon the exportation of a limited-resource product, such as bananas or minerals. In 1901, the American author O. Henry coined the term to describe Honduras and neighbouring countries under economic exploitation by U.S. corporations, such as the United Fruit Company. Typically, a banana republic has a society of extremely stratified social classes, usually a large impoverished working class and a ruling-class plutocracy, composed of the business, political and military elites of that society. Such a ruling-class oligarchy control the primary sector of the economy by way of the exploitation of labour; thus, the term banana republic is a pejorative descriptor for a servile dictatorship that abets and supports, for kickbacks, the exploitation of large-scale plantation agriculture, especially banana cultivation.

Banana plantation

A banana plantation is a commercial agricultural facility found in tropical climates where bananas are grown.

This article is about the history of Honduras from 1838 to 1932. Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was at times referred to as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize.

The Western Caribbean Zone is a region consisting of the Caribbean coasts of Central America, from Yucatán in Mexico to northern Colombia, and also the islands west of Jamaica. The zone emerged in the late sixteenth century as the Spanish failed to completely conquer many sections of the coast, and northern European powers supported opposition to Spain, sometimes through alliances with local powers.

Although bananas have been planted for thousands of years, the development of an intercontinental trade in bananas had to wait for the convergence of three things: modern rapid shipping (steamships), refrigeration, and railroads. These three factors converged in the Caribbean in the 1870s, and would lead to the development of large-scale banana plantations, usually owned and operated by highly integrated large corporations such as Dole and Chiquita Brands International.

While the production of bananas for export is largely in the hands of large commercial companies, such as Chiquita or Dole, the Caribbean, and particularly the Windward Islands, are notable for the production of bananas by small holders for export. They focus their attention on the popular Cavendish banana as these are the fruit of choice on markets in Europe. In the Caribbean, and especially in Dominica where this sort of cultivation is widespread, holdings are in the 1-2 acre range. In many cases the farmer earns additional money from other crops, from engaging in labor outside the farm, and from a share of the earnings of relatives living overseas. This style of cultivation often was popular in the islands as bananas required little labor input and brought welcome extra income. Vulnerability to hurricanes in particular represented a problem.

Afro-Hondurans or Black Hondurans, are Hondurans of African descent. They descended from Africans, who were enslaved and identified as Garifunas and Creole peoples. The Creole people were originally from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands and arrived in Honduras between the nineteenth and early twentieth century to work on the export of bananas and in construction.

Banana production in Ecuador

Banana production in Ecuador is important to the national economy. Ecuador is one of the world's top banana producers, ranked 5th with an annual production of 8 million tonnes as of 2011. The country exports more than 4 million tonnes annually. The crop is mostly grown on private plantations which sell their crop to national and international companies such as Chiquita, Del Monte, Dole, and Noboa. and others.


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates  public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website .

  1. 1 2 Merrill, Tim (1995). "Honduras: A Country Study: Traditional Crops". U.S. Country Studies, Library of Congress . Retrieved August 30, 2008.
  2. John Soluri, Banana Culture: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States (Austin: University of Texas Press: 2005), pp. 18-23
  3. United States Monthly Consular and Trade Reports vols 75, nos 283-285 (Washington, DC, 1904) p. 1096.
  4. Soluri, Banana Culture, pp. 23-25.
  5. Soluri, Banana Culture, pp. 27-29.
  6. Soluri, Banana Culture pp. 40-42.
  7. Glen Chambers,Race, Nation, and West Indian Immigration to Honduras, 1890-1940(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2010), pp. 19, 25-26.
  8. Soluri, Banana Culture pp. 43-45.
  9. Mario Argueta Banana y politica: Samuel Zemurray y la Cuyamel Fruit Company, pp. 24-37
  10. Chambers, Race, Nation, pp. 28-31.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 "Honduras CIA demographics". College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida. Archived from the original on 22 September 2008. Retrieved August 30, 2008.
  12. Soluri, Banana Culture, pp. 51-60.
  13. Merrill, Tim (1995). "Honduras: The Growth of the Banana Industry". U.S. Country Studies, Library of Congress . Retrieved August 31, 2008.
  14. 1 2 3 "Honduras Economy". Nations Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 22 September 2008. Retrieved August 30, 2008.
  15. "Banana production may be wiped out in 10 years". Afrol News. January 19, 2003. Retrieved August 30, 2008.