Where Do They Grow Bananas?

My son loves bananas. I can’t say I blame him. They taste good, they’re colorful, they have a distinct shape (none of this round business, like so many other fruits), and they have a convenient and easily removed peel. What’s not to love?

So he’s sitting on the couch eating a banana, because daddy is being bad and letting him eat in the living room. He contemplates the half a banana he’s got left, then looks at me and asks “where do they grow bananas?”

I shrug. “Uhm… Central Ameria, I think.”

“I think they grow in California!”

I look at him. “Really? Why do you think that?”

“Because they do!”

Five-year-old logic, ladies and gentlemen. But, it’s a good question. And so we’re off to the internet to research.

What is a banana?

This is a banana.

So is this.

And this.

Strictly speaking, bananas are berries. And no, I didn’t know that either. But a berry is defined as “a fleshy fruit without a stone produced from a single flower containing one ovary”. They are part of the Plantae kingdom (meaning they are plants), are angiosperms (meaning they are flowering plants) and monocotyledons (meaning their seeds contain only one embryonic leaf). They fall with in the order Zingiberales and genus Musa, a genus which contains about 70 species of bananas and plantains, and are considered herbaceous flowering plants (meaning they hae no persistent woody stem above ground).

Most likely, you are familiar with the Cavendish group banana, which is generally the cultivar you find in the fruit section of your local grocery store. These are seedless banana, in the sense that they do not form mature seeds. The little black dots in the center are immature seeds, but those seeds do not develop in the Cavendish cultivars. Instead, new plants are grown from transplanted rhizomes – little buds from the primary root, that can grow into new plants.

Note that the Cavendish is unusual in this regard. Many bananas, particularly wild ones, have seeds (as seen in this image from the University of Hawaii):

Where are they grown?

There’s a great little article called Banana Market, available from the University of Florida’s EDIS site, that examines banana production. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has also produced an Overview of World Banana Production and Trade that independently supports the information in the article. World production of bananas hit 97.3 million metric tons (mmt) in 2009, with 61% of those bananas being grown in India, the Philippines, China, Ecuador, and Brazil.

LyraEDISServletWorld’s top producers of fresh bananas

The united States accounts for approximately 0.01% of world banana production, with Hawaii producing the majority of those bananas.

Interestingly, only about 15.3% of the global banana production is exported. The remainder of the banana crops are used within the country that produced them. Ecuador exports 38% of that total volume, Colombia 13.2%, the Philippines 11.7%, Costa Rica 11.5%, and Guatemala 9.9%. 33% of those bananas are imported by the United States, almost as much as the EU and Japan combined.

Globally, the Cavendish banana accounts for 47% of all bananas cultivated. India alone grows 19% of all the Cavendish bananas, followed by Ecuador (12%) and then China (10%).

Are they grown in California?

The answer to that, as far as I can find, is yes. However, I couldn’t find any specifics on production quantities. I’m assuming that, given Hawaii’s dominance in U.S. banana production, the amounts are negligible.