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The Banana

Empires, Trade Wars, and Globalization

James Wiley

Publication Year: 2008

The banana is the world’s most important fresh fruit commodity. Little more than a century old, the global banana industry began in the late 1880s as a result of technological advances such as refrigerated shipping, which facilitated the transportation of this highly perishable good to distant markets. Since its inception the banana industry has been fraught with controversy, exhibiting many of the issues underlying the basic global economic relations that first emerged in the era of European colonialism. Perhaps more than any other agricultural product, the banana reflects the evolution of the world economy. At each stage changes in the global economy manifested themselves in the economic geography of banana production and trade. This remains true today as neoliberal imperatives drive the globalization process and mandate freer trade, influencing the patterns of the transatlantic banana trade.
The Banana demystifies the banana trade and its path toward globalization. It reviews interregional relationships in the industry and the changing institutional framework governing global trade and assesses the roles of such major players as the European Union and the World Trade Organization. It also analyzes the forces driving today’s economy, such as the competitiveness imperative, diversification processes, and niche market strategies. Its final chapter suggests how the outcome of the recent banana war will affect bananas and trade in other commodities sectors as well.
The Banana belies the common perception of globalization as a monolithic and irresistible force and reveals instead various efforts to resist or modify the process at local and national levels. Nevertheless, the banana does represent another step toward a globalized and industrialized agricultural economy.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Series: At Table

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century trends toward the continuing integration of the world economy are attracting the attention of geographers and other academicians who seek to assess the impacts that globalization processes have at various geographic scales. As new associations, such as the North American Free Trade...

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pp. xv-xvi

Academicians doing research abroad quickly realize how dependent they are upon the knowledge, insights, and goodwill of individuals who reside in those places. This project could not have progressed without the help of countless people who shared their ideas, resources, and humor with me during my many months in the...

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pp. xvii-xxv

The banana was introduced to consumers in the United States in the late 1800s. This nutritious addition to the American diet became possible only after the invention of the refrigerated ship. Now taken for granted, refrigerated shipping permitted timely transport of highly perishable fruit from tropical regions in Latin America and...


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pp. xxvii-xxviii

One: A Banana Plantation Model Emerges in Latin America

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1. Creation of the Banana Empire, 1900-1930

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pp. 3-33

Contrary to popular belief, bananas are not native to the Western Hemisphere. According to Reynolds (1927, 19), their original homeland was most likely in South or Southeast Asia. Various banana species were diffused by human migration—for example, by the Polynesians, who carried them as far as Hawaii—or by conquest...

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2. The Empire Challenged, 1930-74

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pp. 35-53

By 1930 the essential ingredients of the Banana Empire were in place and the United Fruit Company operated with relative impunity throughout the so-called banana republics of Latin America. The Great Depression of the 1930s, however, was a major disruption to the banana trade and to national economies globally. It is often...

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3. The End of Splendid Isolation, 1974-93

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pp. 55-69

By 1974 Latin America had been engaged for several decades in a process of economic nationalism, but the length of this process varied among individual countries. Import substitution industrialization (ISI) programs, which were intended to increase secondary sector activity while reducing costly manufactured imports, reshaped national...

Two: The Caribbean Banana Industries

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4. Peasant Farmer Societies: Commonwealth Caribbean Bananas

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pp. 73-98

The model of banana production used in the eastern Caribbean is different from the one used in Latin America. It differs in scale, landscape, land tenure systems, trading patterns, and the nature of the farmers themselves. These characteristics are a function of the relatively recent origin of the region's banana industry, which...

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5. Belize, Suriname, and the French West Indes: On the Margins of the Caribbean

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pp. 99-122

Several banana industries in the Western Hemisphere are structured differently from the Latin American and Caribbean models, although those models are the most common. Belize, Suriname, Guadeloupe, and Martinique, for example, all sell bananas to Europe, but they have different production systems from those in Latin America...

Three: The Changing Framework of the International Banana Trade

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6. The Single European Market and the Western Hemisphere's Banana Industries

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pp. 125-146

Bananas have been a problematic issue for the EU since its inception as the European Economic Community (EEC). The 1957 Treaty of Rome that established the organization specified that the original six member states of the European Community (EC) had until 1970 to adjust their banana importation policies to conform to the...

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7. Neocolonialism Encounters the Free Trade Imperative

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pp. 147-161

The Lomé Convention has figured prominently in the international banana trade. Named for the capital of Togo, where it was signed in 1975, Lomé at first linked nine EC members to forty-six of their former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. The latter comprise the ACP group, now numbering seventy-nine states, including...

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8. The World Trade Organization and the Banana Trade

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pp. 163-180

Since its founding in 1995, the World Trade Organization has had a great impact on the banana trade, which suggests that it might affect the trade of other commodities as well. The WTO is a reflection of the neoliberal paradigm driving the world economy. Its creation was a response to the fourteen-fold increase in the volume...

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9. The U.S.-EU Banana War Heats Up

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pp. 181-203

The reactions to the European Union's implementation of Council Regulation 404/93 in July 1993 ensured that the policy would be tested in the international arena. The economic importance of the banana trade and the complexity of the relationships it engenders increased the vigilance of all of the parties involved as they monitored...

Four: Globalization

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10. Pursuit of an Elusive Goal

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pp. 207-230

The foreign debt crisis that affected LCSs during the 1980s stimulated globalization processes in the primary sectors of many Latin American and Caribbean countries. The need to service debts and qualify for new loans created an export imperative that led such countries to expand their commodities sectors as a means of...

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11. Implications for the Future

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pp. 231-248

By 2001 the banana war participants appeared to manifest symptoms of "banana fatigue." That fatigue, combined with the EU's threat to implement an FCFS policy that was clearly unacceptable to nearly all parties involved, motivated everyone to return to the negotiating table, and events progressed rapidly by the early spring...


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pp. 249-254


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pp. 255-267


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pp. 269-278

E-ISBN-13: 9780803216372
E-ISBN-10: 0803216378

Illustrations: 20 photos, 9 maps
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: At Table