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Gene to fight banana wilt found

Stored under News on April 3, 2008

The Nairobi-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation, AATF's scientists are developing a gene that would lead to new banana varieties resistant to the bacterial wilt.

The gene has previously been used to combat diseases in tobacco, tomato, broccoli, orchids and rice.

Speaking in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Peter Werehire, the publications officer at the AATF said in the last five years, the disease has spread in the entire Eastern and Central African countries of Uganda, Eastern Congo, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.

"So, the National Agricultural Research Organisation and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture sought to access candidate genes for conferring resistance against the wilt. One such gene was the plant ferrodoxin-like protein gene from sweet pepper," he said.

Werehire said the banana bacterial wilt disease, caused by Xanthomonas campestrispv. Musacearum, is spread through the use of infected banana planting materials, infected cutting tools, vectors and browsing animals.

"When the disease strikes, the leaves of the infected plants first turn dull green before they become scalded. The plants start wilting and the bunches show uneven and premature ripening of fruit," he said.

It has been found to be very destructive with incidence of 70-80% in many plantations and yield losses of 90% have been reported on some farms.

In Uganda for example, the potential national loss is estimated at USD 360 million annually (or 90% of banana’s contribution to the country’s GDP). He said preliminary laboratory tests indicate that transgenic banana plants appear to be resistant to the wilt.

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Bananas still cost peanuts, even with prices rising

Stored under News on April 3, 2008

Yes, we have bananas, but you may notice a lot more dark green ones on grocer's shelves along with higher prices.

A cool winter in Central America, flooding in Ecuador and increased demand in Europe are creating a shortage in North America and forcing stores to rush supplies to market greener than usual, says local banana man Ron Chiovitti.

At the same time, transportation costs are skyrocketing, which explains why the price has shot up by 10 to 20 cents a pound.

"Our market has already moved up 10 cents," says Chiovitti, 61, North America's largest importer and distributor of bananas. But even if our favourite fruit rises to 69 cents a pound, it's still the best buy in the produce department.

"Even local apples cost more than a buck a pound," says the former drummer whose Italian great-grandfather began peddling bananas on Toronto streets in the early 1900s. "At three to a pound, a banana might cost you 20 cents each."

Most bananas are bought on impulse and we often don't even notice the price, Chiovitti adds. "If they look nice and they're the right colour, you're going to buy them."

Though his organic banana business is growing 10 per cent a year in volume, he says it's driven by price rather than conscience. If regular bananas are 49 cents and organics 99 cents a pound, consumers will buy a regular bunch. But if regular bananas are 69 and organics 79, he sells more organics.

In a typical week, Chiovitti trucks up to 3.5 million pounds of boxed bananas into southern Ontario from U.S. ports, then ripens them for four to five days in the company's 50 ripening rooms at its Etobicoke headquarters and at the Ontario Food Terminal.

Though he estimates that Canadians eat more than 35 pounds of the super-nutritious fruit a year, banana barons such as Dole and Del Monte have big plans to encourage us to eat even more.

Bunches of Chiquita bananas are already appearing beside the checkout in some local supermarkets. If we follow the U.S. lead, by the end of the year we should see single ripe bananas for sale in high-end coffee shops and fast-food chains.

Will Canadians buy a 99-cent banana with their $3.50 latte?

"We'll see!" says Chiovitti, whose bedside reading includes the current bestseller The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel.

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Runners all set for banana bonanza at Brands

Stored under News on February 7, 2008

BRANDS Hatch will be bombarded with bananas this weekend for a special charity event.

Leukaemia Research's Banana Army will unleash 150 runners at the famous Kent racing circuit, near West Kingsdown, for its annual half marathon spectacular on Saturday.

The event, organised by Running Fitness and Saucony with Leukaemia Research, features a traditional 13-mile race, a 10k run and an additional one-mile Bananaman Chase in aid of Leukaemia Research.

The banana bonanza will see entrants running to overtake pacesetters, all dressed in banana suits.

Celebrities set to attend the charity event include television actors from Coronation Street and Holby City.

Kate White, Director of Fundraising of Leukaemia Research, said: "We're proud to be the official charity for the Brands Hatch Half Marathon."

"Our Banana Army running team are revving up for a great race, which will help us raise much-needed money to beat blood cancers."

For more information, visit the event website:

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'Viagra' banana split a winner

Stored under News on January 17, 2008

Cape Town - The menu of a St Francis Bay chef, who apparently serves up a powerful drug against erectile dysfunction with a banana split, was shrouded in mystery when Die Burger newspaper tried to investigate.

One of the items on Big Time Taverna's dessert menu, between Greek baklava and ice-cream desserts is the so-called Viagra, but whether or not it's the real thing is not that easy to determine.

The owner, Peri Tsiotsiopoulos, said that, in fact, he served up Cialis, a schedule four drug that is prescribed for erectile dysfunction.

He said the whole thing began about two years ago at the cheeky suggestion of a visitor from Holland to the Eastern Cape town.

Side effects

The popularity of the dessert had increased by leaps and bounds.

Tsiotsiopoulos said he had sold about 80 of the desserts in December, and men had left the restaurant bouncing like Bambi.

"It's a beautiful thing," he said.

But when Die Burger spoke to medical experts they were less than amused that chefs could be dispensing prescription medicine such as Viagra and Cialis.

"That falls outside the parameters of the restaurant business," said Dr Marmol Stoltz, chairperson of the Western Cape branch of the South African Medical Association.

She said any doctor who encountered such a dish ought to "report it".

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High-fibre banana powder offers health and wellness options

Stored under News on January 10, 2008

A fibre-rich powder from banana powder could boost the fibre content and nutritional content of food, report researchers from Mexico and Venezuela. The research, published in the journal Food Chemistry, taps into the trend for development of ingredients with health and wellness functionality.

"Due to its high total dietary fibre and indigestible fraction contents the banana fibre-rich powder (BFRP) appears a promising ingredient for functional foods," wrote the authors, from the Centro de Desarrollo de Productos Bioticos del IPN and the Central University of Venezuela.

"Water- and oil-holding capacities of BFRP did not change with the temperature, an important characteristic during the processing of food products where this preparation may be added."

The researchers applied starch liquefaction to eliminate the high starch content present in the fruit and thereby produce a fibre-rich powder capable of being formulated in a variety of diverse functional foods.

Using commercial unripe (hard green) bananas, the liquefied slurry was then mixed with an alpha-amylase enzyme for three hours. After this time, the enzyme was inactivated, and the material centrifuged and dried to obtain the fibre-rich powder.

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Bendy banana ban here to stay

Stored under News on January 3, 2008

A FYLDE Euro MP has gone bananas. Liberal Democrat Chris Davies says that much ridiculed EU rules on bendy fruits are here to stay.

The EU banned the importing of bananas of 'an abnormal shape' leading Eurosceptics to criticise the union for meddling and call for an end to the law.

However, Mr Davies says the regulations simply provide quality bananas and says the law is here to stay.

He said: "People think that bananas are just bananas.

"But there's a huge difference between a long, straight one from Costa Rica and a short, curvy one from Cyprus or the Canaries.

"It may not matter much to some people, but it matters a lot to supermarkets buying bananas by the million.

"They want to know what's in the box."

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Philippine banana poised for entry into US market

Stored under News on December 27, 2007

AGRICULTURE Secretary Arthur Yap on Monday said the US Department of Agriculture has assured the Philippines of the speedy processing of the pest risk analysis for local bananas.

Once approved, the US will allow the entry of banana, a high-value commodity into the American market and will boost the country’s export earnings by $6 million yearly.

"The Philippines is a leader in banana production and creating a new market would aid the livelihood of farmers in Mindanao where much of the exports are sourced," Yap said.

He added that opening Philippine bananas to an important market such as the US will send a positive signal to small Filipino farmers to diversify into high-value crop production.

In his bilateral meeting with Acting Secretary Chuck Conner of the USDA in Washington on November, Yap had identified bananas to the American official as the Philippine commodity that should be given priority by the US officials in conducting its pest-risk analysis on potential products for imports.

Yap said Conner then assured him that the USDA would move to expeditiously conduct the pest risk analysis for Philippine bananas.

The description of the US Food Safety System explains that "science and risk analysis are fundamental to US food safety policymaking. In recent years, the federal government has focused more intently on risks associated with microbial pathogens and on reducing those risks through a comprehensive, farm-to-table approach to food safety. This policy emphasis was based on the conclusion that the risks associated with microbial pathogens are unacceptable and, to a large extent, avoidable; and that multiple interventions would be required throughout the farm-to-table chain to make real progress in reducing food-borne pathogens and the incidence of food-borne disease."

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UH researchers help slow banana bunchy top disease

Stored under News on December 20, 2007

Hawai'i banana growers who are ranked number one nationally in banana production are being threatened by a perilous pathogen known as banana bunchy top disease. To help slow the spread of the disease, caused by the Banana bunchy top virus, the Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences Department in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at UH Manoa are producing and distributing tissue-cultured banana plants that are free of BBTV. Plants infected early with banana bunchy top virus do not bare fruit, and fruits of later infected plants are typically stunted, unattractive and not saleable, a UH news release said. The disease is transmitted by a small soft bodied insect known as the banana aphid. BBTV was first reported in Hawai'i in 1989 and has since spread progressively.

"The spread of BBTV in Hawai'i is greatly influenced by the movement and use of infected plant material, thus, the use of field-grown banana suckers as replant material is risky," Cerruti Hooks, a CTAHR entomologist said in a released statement from the school. Cerruti shared that although the bananas may appear healthy, they may already be infected with BBTV. "Using known BBTV-free plants is the safest practice available today for replacing diseased banana plants."

In addition to BBTV, CTAHR nematologist Koon-Hui Wang discovered that many banana fields are infested with plant-parasitic nematodes. These nematode feed, multiply and migrate into the banana root system, where they impair water and nutrient uptake. This affects plant anchorage and toppling might occur under high infestations. Banana suckers collected from fields containing nematodes may already be infested with these organisms, but using tissue-cultured plantlets may also help prevent the unintentional spread of nematodes.

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Chiquita sees better banana business in fourth quarter

Stored under News on December 13, 2007

Banana prices were up across the board in Chiquita Brands International's fourth quarter, the company said Tuesday.

Growth has also picked up for the packaged salads category, which was impacted by an E. coli scare last year.

North American banana pricing was up 8 percent, and volume was up 1 percent over the quarter, Chiquita said in a news release. Pricing in core European markets rose 22 percent in U.S. dollars and 8 percent on a local currency basis, and volume fell 7 percent. In the Asia Pacific, pricing rose 4 percent and volume fell 9 percent, and in trading markets, including countries that don't belong to the European Union, pricing was up 2 percent and volume fell 57 percent.

In the company's Salads and Healthy Snacks segment, the net revenue per case was up 1 percent, while volume grew 11 percent over the quarter.

Fernando Aguirre, chairman and CEO, said the company was pleased with the performance in both segments. "At the same time, industry costs, particularly from fuel and purchased raw products, continue to pressure our margins," he said in the release.

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Rescued apes get smuggled bananas

Stored under News on December 6, 2007

Customs officers who seized 2.7 million cigarettes have given the bananas they were hidden among to a Dorset monkey charity as an early Christmas present.

The discovery was made at Poole ferry port early on Saturday.

The contraband was found with several hundred boxes of fruit, which has been given to Monkey World, near Wareham, where it will be fed to the animals.

The cigarettes, which were hidden to avoid £472,000 of duty, were found in a lorry arriving from Cherbourg.

Banana headache

Bob Gaiger, HM Revenue and Customs spokesman, said: "The disposal of over 500 boxes of bananas could have been a bit of a headache."

"But we're delighted to have found a way of putting the bananas to such a good use by giving them the primates at Monkey World as an early Christmas present."

Lou Matthews, communications manager at Monkey World, said: "We are extremely grateful to HM Revenue & Customs for this donation and the primates say a big thank you for the bananas.

"Donations such as this are always welcomed."

The Irish driver of the lorry was arrested and released on police bail until 3 March next year.

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Smoothies Are Top Banana in Any Weather

Stored under News on December 6, 2007

You hear blenders churning ice in every major shopping center. Your gym offers vitality in tropical slush form. Instead of bacon double cheeseburger wrappers on the dashboard, you're seeing superwide straws.

And all the while, franchisors are seeing dollar signs.

"You can't have too many smoothies," says franchise consultant Dick Rennick. Increasingly mobile and health-conscious consumers are the willing targets of icy beverages marketed as guilt-free alternatives to Wendy's or fiber-rich substitutes for soft drinks.

The number of franchised units offering smoothies as their main products nearly doubled from 2002 to 2006, according to FRANdata, a franchise research firm. An ongoing stream of new companies that entered the industry during that time, such as Chicago-based Froots, plus continued development of established franchising systems, including Maui Wowi and Jamba Juice (JMBA - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr - Rating), are the main factors behind the rapid growth.

Yes you can make money in this crowded market, says Rennick, but the minute you blend in, you're slush. Constant innovation is a must, he cautions, and every franchise needs a shtick.

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Panama Banana Workers Denounce Abuse

Stored under News on November 29, 2007

Panamanian banana producers are waiting for authorities to process their reports of unfair practices against the US Chiquita Brands multinational company, which forces them to sell the fruit at a loss and prevents them from exporting to other markets.

Workers of the farms in Puerto Armuelles' Multiple Service Cooperative -COOSEMUPAR-, Chiquiri Province, gave away 50,000 banana boxes to the local population on Friday in protest. Salustiano de Gracia, general secretary of the Chiquiri Land Co.

Labor Union, said the US firm, heir of the sadly well-known United Fruit Company, only pays $5 per box, based on a ten-year contract signed in 2003, but that means a loss of $2.18 per box for the producers, who are demanding review of the contract and a price increase to $8.

We are working to give the product away to Chiquita, said the union leader, saying they also suffer the high cost of oil, fertilizers and other supplies and cannot sell the fruit to other wholesalers, such as Spaniards, Italians, or Russians willing to pay more.

The Consumer Protection's Free Competition Authority board of directors reported it is investigating whether Chiquita International Company, Ltd. benefits from a monopolistic practice in the contract signed with COOSEMUPAR.

However this is a meticulous process that will take time, thus Chiriqui's producers are losing their patience because, according to their reports, Chiquita wants to starve them to death.

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Scientists to develop specialty banana

Stored under News on November 29, 2007

Scientists in Lam Dong Province are working on a project aimed to develop and expand the production of a variety of bananas well known locally for their superior quality.

For over half a century, La Ba bananas, named after La Ba where they were first planted in Lam Dong Province, have been treasured for their large size, beautiful shape and excellent taste.

At present, around 100 hectares of La Ba bananas are being grown around the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong.

According to local planters, La Ba bananas are easy to grow as well as profitable.

"By growing La Ba bananas, I earn seven to eight times as much as if I grow corn," said Ha-Ai from Don Duong District.

Ha-Ai's hectare of the specialty banana yields around VND60 million in annual income.

Despite its considerable commercial value, experts say the Lam Dong specialty banana has been degenerating due to poor cultivation methods.

But the director of the Lam Dong Province Department of Science and Technology, Truong Tro, said the project aimed to study, restore and patent the breed as well as explore its market potential.

Head of the Biology Department at HCMC University of Natural Sciences, Doctor Duong Cong Kien had already successfully helped refine the breed by using tissue transplant techniques.

These techniques will be further developed and transferred to local planters, said Duong Kim Man, head of the Duc Trong District Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

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Banana producer faces $8b lawsuit over terrorism

Stored under News on November 15, 2007

VICTIMS of Colombia's bloody civil conflict have filed the largest US lawsuit to date against a top banana producer, Chiquita Brands International, saying the company funded and armed a paramilitary organisation accused of killing banana growers.

The civil lawsuit seeks a total of $US7.9 billion ($8.7 billion) on behalf of 393 victims and their relatives and accuses Chiquita of conspiring with the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish acronym AUC, to control Colombia's banana-growing regions.

"It was about acquiring every aspect of banana distribution and sale through a reign of terror," the plaintiffs' lawyer, Jonathan Reiter, said. The suit seeks damages for supporting terrorism, war crimes, wrongful death and torture.

The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday, is the latest of several complaints filed by Colombian victims against Chiquita in the US this year.

The company has admitted paying off violent guerilla groups, including the AUC, who are accused of massacres during Colombia's long-running guerilla war before it disarmed in 2003.

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Jury says Dole maliciously harmed 5 banana workers

Stored under News on November 8, 2007

LOS ANGELES--A Superior Court jury ruled Wednesday that the Dole Fresh Fruit Co acted maliciously in harming five of six workers who say they were left sterile by a pesticide used on a Nicaraguan banana plantation in the 1970s.

The ruling sets the stage for Dole to pay punitive damages on top of $3.3 million in actual damages the jury awarded the six workers on Monday. The seven-man, five-woman jury was to return to court next week to determine the amount of punitive damages.

The workers' lawsuit accused Dole and Standard Fruit Co., now part of Dole, of negligence and fraudulent concealment while using the pesticide DBCP in the 1970s. The chemical was used to kill microscopic worms on the roots of banana plants.

"We are quite pleased on behalf of our clients that Dole has seen their day in court and has finally been held accountable for what they did," the workers' attorney, Duane Miller, said after Wednesday's verdict.

Dole attorney Rick McKnight declined comment.

Twelve workers originally filed suit, but in issuing Monday's ruling jurors said only six had been substantially harmed by the pesticide. Wednesday's verdict concluded that only five had been maliciously harmed.

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Banana Workers Union Leader Assassinated

Stored under News on November 1, 2007

On September 23rd Marco Tulio Portela Ramirez was brutally gunned down outside his home as he prepared to go to work at the Bandegua banana plantation, a subsidiary of Del Monte Fresh Produce.

Do you eat Del Monte bananas? Do you notice where your bananas come from? Are you willing to take a moment of your time to help the workers whose labor sends over a million tons of bananas to the Unites States each year?

The production of bananas in Guatemala takes place in large monoculture plantations where labor conditions are very poor. Workers receive low wages which often don’t cover the basic needs of their families and endure long 12-hour work days and exposure to dangerous chemicals. Yet employees lack the freedom to organize independent trade unions and negotiate agreements with their employers in order to improve these working conditions. Those who have tried to organize have come under attack from both transnational banana companies and independent banana producers. Illegal firings, plantation closures, temporary contracts, civil law suits, trumped up criminal charges, and violence targeting union leaders have all become commonplace. So far in 2007, four unionists have been assassinated and no charges have been made against the guilty parties.

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Just desserts for 'Banana Splits' fans

Stored under News on October 25, 2007

LONDON - U.S.-based Warner Bros. Entertainment has joined forces with Universal Music Group to revive the Banana Splits, the 1960s kids-TV costumed characters.

Comprising four costumed animal-like creatures, the Banana Splits were conceived by legendary animation creators Hanna-Barbera Productions to host breakfast-time cartoons sponsored by Kellogg's Cereals on the NBC TV network.

The popularity of their live-action comic sketches and song performances led to recordings on the then Decca Records, and some of the first pre-MTV music videos.

Now WB Entertainment has used its ACME Lab, launched in 2006 to revive WB's 1,000-plus dormant kids-TV properties, to breathe new life into an updated version of the Banana Splits.

The resurrected Banana Splits, filmed in Australia, will comprise 3-minute long shorts aired on the Time Warner-owned Cartoon Network, and on T-Works, a new multi-platform kids' social-networking service, designed to host all WB cartoons.

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Compromise reached on Buddha with banana

Stored under News on October 18, 2007

A gallery owner who caused a public outcry by exhibiting the statue of an aroused Buddha in a Norwich shop window yesterday said he had reached a compromise with police.

The now infamous £125,000 Colin Self sculpture depicts an otherwise serene Buddha with a food offering of a banana and two eggs arranged provocatively in its lap.

Norfolk Police's hate crime unit launched an investigation after complaints about its display in the St Giles Street Gallery. Members of the Buddhist community and a neighbouring business owner had claimed it was offensive.

Officers threatened to seize the work if it was not removed and arrest owner David Koppel.

Mr Koppel closed the business for a week while a solution was found.

Yesterday, the gallery reopened to the public and Mr Koppel said an agreement had been reached with the police. “I have agreed to remove the Buddha with the fruit offering to the back of the gallery away from the view of passers-by,” he said.

“It will be facing the window, as it was, but will now be further inside. I am satisfied that this is a reasonable resolution. For me it was an issue of freedom of artistic expression - this way the public can still appreciate the piece but it should not cause offence.”

He added that the controversy has generated huge interest in the business.

“This exhibition followed on from our most successful exhibition in the five years since we opened, Frank Herrmann's Unseen Beatles,” he said.

“Both exhibitions have received enormous media coverage, for one reason or another.

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Lawyer argues that pesticide left banana workers sterile

Stored under News on October 11, 2007

LOS ANGELES - A lawyer for a dozen banana workers from Nicaragua argued Wednesday that Dole Fresh Fruit Co. and Dow Chemical Co. robbed his clients of the ability to have children by overexposing them to a harmful pesticide that left them sterile.

Attorney Duane Miller, who represents the workers, made the claim during closing arguments in the three-month civil trial targeting the world's largest producer of fresh fruits and vegetables and the giant chemical company.

"As adults, we decide whether we want children or not," Miller told jurors. "This is a case about a decision made for my clients instead of by my clients."

The lawsuit accuses Dole and Standard Fruit Co., now a part of Dole, of negligence and fraudulent concealment while using the pesticide DBCP in the 1970s.

It also alleges that Dow "actively suppressed information about DBCP's reproductive toxicity."

Dole and Dow deny liability.

During his closing argument, Dow attorney Gennaro "Gus" Filice said the workers did not have enough exposure to DBCP to have any effect. Experts analyzed the exposure and found it to be insignificant, he said.

"These numbers are important," he said. "They tell the story."

Filice also claimed many workers had other health problems that could have made it difficult to have children, including venereal disease and infections.

DBCP was used to kill microscopic worms on the roots of banana plants. It was approved for use in the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency until 1979. In Nicaragua, it was legal from 1973 until 1993.

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Growing bananas: Gardener's friends teased him, but sweet revenge is in sight

Stored under News on October 4, 2007

David Anton didn't say a word about the banana plants he'd ordered through eBay, not until they arrived at his Davis home from Florida on a winter day in 2006.

When he unwrapped them, they looked like three, 2-inch blades of grass.

When David showed them to his wife, Joan, she laughed at him.

They'll never grow - it's way too cold here in the winter, she declared. And where are we going to put them anyway?

It wasn't as though David was an unsuccessful gardener.

Though the 52-year-old is no UC Davis plant expert - he's a civil rights attorney - he and his family of four have from two backyard plots produced crops of Japanese eggplants, artichokes, strawberries, beets, broccoli and more.

Gardening even runs in David's family, sort of. Back in his native New Jersey, he watched his father, Stan, keep the weeds down old-school style, cutting holes in black plastic for his tomatoes and corn with an acetylene torch.

David tucked his banana plants into flower pots.

Three months passed. Nothing.

But come summer, they started growing at last. By fall, he'd put the 6-foot-tall plants in small wooden barrels.

Next came the real test: winter.

David eased the plants under the eaves of his house. He clothed them in plastic.

And, they made it.

I'll have to buy you a sombrero and a machete, Joan said.

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Webster Goes Bananas For World Record

Stored under News on September 27, 2007

Go bananas at North Webster Community Center's Center Fest Oct. 13.

From noon to 4 p.m., individuals can attempt to break the world record for the most bananas snapped in a minute. To break the record, 81 bananas must be peeled in a minute. Even if the record isn't broken, the first 100 people who try to snap more than 81 bananas in a minute get a free t-shirt.

Banana snapping isn't the only fun event planned for the free Center Fest.

The Banana Split 5K Run/Fun Walk-Run/Bike Ride is from 8 to 10 a.m. Brian Shepherd organized the race, and it is opened to everyone. Prizes will be awarded in different age divisions. Registration for the race is $10 in advance, $12 on the day of the race. Forms are available at the Community Center, local schools, Lance's and Ace Hardware.

From 10 a.m. to noon, take a Community Center Spotlight Tour. Visit the library, Senior Primelife Enrichment Center, YMCA, Art Center and other areas of the Community Center. Enjoy free refreshments, too, such as hot dogs, popcorn and ice-cream from the Kiwanis.

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Illicit banana pesticide is blamed for ‘cancer disaster’ in Caribbean

Stored under News on September 20, 2007

The Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique face a health disaster, with one man in two likely to suffer prostate cancer as a result of prolonged use of illegal pesticides on banana plantations, the French parliament was told yesterday.

The water table, land and wildlife in the two French overseas départements will suffer for decades from contamination by chlordecone, a chemical for killing weevils, Dominique Belpomme, a Paris cancer expert, said in a study that was presented to the National Assembly. "This is an extremely serious crisis linked to the massive use of pesticides for a great many years," he said.

Michel Barnier, the Agriculture Minister, said that the situation was "very serious" and promised to "treat the question of chlordecone with the greatest openness". However, other officials played down the report, which was commissioned by Caribbean consumer and environmental associations, as unproven and said that there was no evidence of a health threat from chlordecone use.

The state Institute for Monitoring Health said that ethnic differences probably explained the high incidence of prostate cancer in the islands compared with France. Chlordecone was outlawed in the islands in 1993, but it was used illegally – often sprayed by aeroplanes – up to 2002.

A drop in the birthrate on the islands "stems from other causes than the impact of a health issue on the biology of reproduction," said the institute. Christian Choupin, head of the Martinique and Guadeloupe Banana Producers’ Association, said that the report was unscientific. "One has the impression that people are dying like flies in the French Caribbean, which is far from the reality," he said.

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Chiquita: $25M fine for terror payments

Stored under News on September 13, 2007

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Banana producer Chiquita will pay a $25 million fine and serve five years' probation for once paying millions of dollars to groups in Colombia considered by the U.S. to be terrorist organizations, a Department of Justice spokesman said Tuesday.

A worker at a banana plantation in Santa Maria, Colombia, in December 2000.

In so doing, the banana producer avoided prosecution for the company's now-defunct payoff of Colombian terrorists protecting its most profitable banana-growing operation, according to terms of a plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department.

If approved by U.S. courts, the $25 million fine would represent the largest U.S. criminal penalty ever imposed under federal global terrorism sanction regulations, said Justice spokesman Dean Boyd. The regulations prohibit transactions with people who commit, threaten to commit or support U.S.-designated terrorists and establish penalties for doing so.

Attorneys from the Justice Department's National Security Division and federal prosecutors for the District of Columbia filed a joint sentencing motion Tuesday asking the court to accept the plea agreement, which was reached March 19, Boyd said. A hearing on the matter is set for Monday.

In its motion, the government asked that Chiquita Brands International be fined and sentenced to probation, as well as being required to implement an effective ethics program in connection with the company's guilty plea, Boyd said.

Federal prosecutors accused the Cincinnati-based company of paying more than $1.7 million to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a right-wing paramilitary group, in two parts of Colombia where the company grew bananas.

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Giant banana to blast into space

Stored under News on September 6, 2007

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's a giant banana that a Canadian artist's building to blast into space.

Cesar Saez is planning to launch the 300m-long inflatable banana into orbit from Mexico next summer to see how people react to his crazy flying fruit.

The finished banana will certainly be hard to miss - it's going to be longer than three football pitches and as high as a 20-storey building in the middle.

That means it will be between 15-20% of the size of the full moon!

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Brighton's banana lady dies

Stored under News on August 30, 2007

A popular market trader known as the banana lady has died at the age of 91.

Mary Ellen Mears, who was called Eileen by friends and family, ran a fruit and vegetable store at the Open Market in London Road, Brighton, for more than half a century and worked well into her 80s.

She died at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton after suffering a burst blood vessel at her home in Kipling Avenue, Woodingdean, Brighton, four days earlier.

Mrs Mears moved from Ireland to Seaford in 1928 when she worked as a companion to the family who owned Pye Radio, which was eventually bought out by Phillips.

She met her husband Charles in Seaford as he was stationed there during the second world war. They married in 1940.

In 1948 the family bought the market stall and it was run by Mr and Mrs Mears until Mr Mears died aged 56 in 1969.

After his death, the business was run by Mrs Mears with the help of her children, Pat, Mary, Cyril and Lenny, who all live in Sussex.

Pat Mears said: "When my mum retired she gave her share of the business to Cyril but she still used to come down and do the flats in the morning and cash up in the evening."

"She was called the banana lady because she used to give all the children free bananas."

"Even the funeral director who is sorting things out for us said mum used to give him bananas when he was a kid."

"There must have been a lot of children in Brighton who remember my mum giving them bananas."

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Hurricane Dean destroys banana crops in Jamaica and Dominica

Stored under News on August 23, 2007

Hurricane Dean wiped out banana crops in Dominica and did major damage in Jamaica, officials said Tuesday -- more bad news for an industry that has been struggling throughout the Caribbean.

The hurricane, which roared across lush Dominica on Friday, destroyed 99 percent of the mostly rural island's banana crop, Agriculture Minister Colin McIntyre said.

In Jamaica, which was hit by the storm on Sunday, Dean did extensive damage to bananas and other crops in at least four of the country's parishes but precise figures were not yet available, Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke said.

Marshall Hall, chairman of Jamaica Producers -- one of the country's biggest exporters of bananas -- said the export crop was "wiped out" in an eastern Portland parish while 90 percent was destroyed in St. Mary parish, another leading producer of the fruit.

The islands of Martinique and St. Lucia have also reported that their entire banana crops were destroyed by Dean, which caused flooding and toppled trees.

The banana industry in the Caribbean has been struggling for years because of aggressive competition from other parts of the world and the loss of preferential treatment in the European market, but it remains an important segment of the economy in the region.

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Banana cake for birthday boy Zakayo

Stored under News on August 16, 2007

Entebbe, Uganda - Uganda's oldest captive chimpanzee turned 43 on Wednesday with a banana cake and "regular love and grooming" from his female companions, his keepers said.

Zakayo, who was taken into captivity after being attacked by poachers, was presented with a specially baked banana cake, which he had been trained to cut with a wooden knife, but instead he chose to grab it with his hands, delighting hordes of school children.

The 67kg alpha male was brought into captivity in 1972 after his group was attacked by poachers in Uganda's south-west. When he first arrived at the centre, which at the time was the Entebbe Zoo, he was housed in a small cage along with four other chimps and visitors were able to offer him cigarettes and alcohol.

The former zoo has now been transformed into the Wildlife Education Centre - a voluntary organisation that rescues animals orphaned or confiscated by poachers - and the animals have their own small island similar to their natural forest habitat.

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Thief gets a banana punishment

Stored under News on August 9, 2007

Police force fed a thief 40 bananas because they thought it would act as a laxative.

Officers hoped the fruit would help man pass a necklace he had stolen and then swallowed

But while they sat back and waited for results Sheikh Mohsin passed an uncomfortable night in jail, but not the piece of jewellery.

It was only after police fed him a hearty meal of chicken, rice and bread that it produced the required result.

According to Indian police, Mohsin, 35, grabbed the 45,000-rupee necklace from a woman in the eastern city of Kolkata and popped it into his mouth when police cornered him.

Senior officer Gyanwant Singh said: "Now he wants to go free and doesn't want to even hear about bananas any more."

He said a tired and rueful Mohsin was, however, staring at three years in jail if convicted.

"Bananas were good enough for another thief who had swallowed an ornament a few months ago, but Mohsin was definitely a tough cookie," said one clearly impressed police constable.

[News Source]

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There's a lizard in my bananas

Stored under News on August 2, 2007

SHOCKED Lisa Marie Jacques opened a pack of bananas for her son's lunch -- and found a dead LIZARD inside.

Lisa, 30, bought the £1.19 pack from Tesco last week for Joshua, 12.

But she spotted the reptile pressed against a fruit when she opened the pack.

The Specsavers worker said: "It felt horribly slimy, and the smell was horrendous. It really stank."

Lisa, from Bedworth, Warwicks, said Tesco had asked her to bring in the fruit -- but has not yet apologised.

She said: "It's put me and Joshua off bananas for life."

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'Big Banana' Bandit Slips In And Robs Again

Stored under News on July 26, 2007

The "Big Banana" bandit, so named for eating a banana and other snacks while waiting in line before committing heists, robbed his ninth bank in south Orange County, authorities said Wednesday.

That makes him the most prolific bank robber currently sought locally by the FBI, officials said.

The suspect held up a Citibank branch about 12:15 p.m. on Saturday at 31872 Del Obispo St. in San Juan Capistrano, said Jim Amormino of the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

In about half the robberies, which were also carried out in Laguna Niguel, San Clemente and Aliso Viejo, the man displayed a semi-automatic handgun in a waistband, Amormino said.

Each time, he has passed the clerk a demand note. No vehicle linked to him has been seen, Amormino said.

In addition to a banana, which earned him his moniker, the suspect has been seen eating chips or drinking a soda, and has entered at least one bank talking on a cell phone, Amormino said.

The man, who always wears a baseball cap, is described as white, 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall and weighing 190-200 pounds, with a medium build and black hair, Amormino said.

[News Source w/ video]

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Unique crust makes Milwaukee bakery's banana cream pie tastier than usual

Stored under News on July 12, 2007

You wouldn't think there'd be much to a banana cream pie -- some instant vanilla pudding and sliced bananas arranged methodically in a pre-made crust. Perhaps that's why banana cream pie occasionally gets pushed aside when we see it on diner menus and at potluck functions.

Yet if you're a banana fan and the tedium of this pie has you hungry for something more, there is a better pie for you. You only have to look.

At C. Adam's Bakery in Milwaukee, there is so much more to their banana cream pie. Hidden in the hubbub of the Milwaukee Public Market, this tiny bakery pumps out some of the Midwest's tastiest gourmet treats. From raspberry chocolate truffle bars to l'oreos -- a posh, homemade version of Nabisco's famous black and white sandwich cookie -- it's hard not to stop and join the jostling people who feast their eyes on the large glass kiosk housing these delectable treats.

But beside the rows of intricately decorated pastries, a section of classic American pies awaits to be scooped up by the hungry stragglers. In both individual sizes and in 9-inch rounds, chocolate cream, key lime and banana cream sit in perfect formation, the peaks of their cream never drooping.

At first glance, the banana cream pie looks like any other banana pie might look if found at a diner or grocery store bakery. The crust is a little rough around the edges and the cream, although tinged a slight tan from the delicious addition of vanilla, is piled high in heaps of stiff, glorious peaks. But beneath its ordinary exterior lies a depth of flavor. The banana filling is rich and sweet with the taste of ripe bananas. There is no hint of packaged pudding in this pie, only the flavor of silky homemade banana custard that complements the vanilla-infused cream atop the pie so well.

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U.S. steps into Chiquita tiff

Stored under News on July 5, 2007

The United States government is siding with Chiquita Brands International Inc. again in its 15-year battle against the European Union over access to its lucrative banana market.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said Friday she would ask a World Trade Organization panel to investigate whether the current system, which favors bananas imported from former colonies in the Caribbean over those from Latin American countries, violates WTO rules.

"We share the concern of Ecuador and several other Latin American banana exporters regarding the continued existence of a discriminatory tariff rate quota in the EU's current banana regime," Schwab said in a statement.

Chiquita spokesman Mike Mitchell said the company viewed the intervention as a positive step.

"We certainly hope the USTR's action ... will continue to press the European Commission to resolve the situation very quickly," he said.

Chiquita has been fighting the European Union over its banana licensing system since the early 1990s. It's a fight especially important to Chiquita because the EU is its most profitable banana market, with companies able to charge higher prices there.

The original system imposed quotas limiting imports from Latin America. The U.S. intervened on Chiquita's behalf, imposing nearly $200 million in annual sanctions against European products after Chiquita said the quotas had cost it $1.5 billion in lost earnings.

The two sides cut a deal in 2001, with the EU committing to converting quotas to a tariff-only system by 2006. But the Europeans put heavy tariffs of 176 euros per ton on bananas from Latin America, Schwab's office said. According to Chiquita, those fees added $75 million in net costs last year, a major factor in the company's $96 million loss.

[News Source]

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Buried 'aliens' are really tree trunks

Stored under News on June 28, 2007

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia --Malaysians in a northern village were alarmed by rumors that space aliens had been laid to rest in their neighborhood cemetery, but authorities learned the graves had merely been filled with banana tree trunks for a superstitious ritual, police said Tuesday.

Residents feared a local witch doctor had instructed grave diggers to bury extraterrestrials in the rural district of Pasir Mas on Sunday, causing police to detain the man for investigation, said district police chief Haliludin Rahim.

The man was freed after he explained that banana tree trunks, not aliens, had been buried in a ceremony for "medicinal purposes," Haliludin told The Associated Press.

The New Straits Times newspaper said the rumor started because of a misunderstanding after some of the grave diggers claimed to other people that they had been told they were burying aliens.

Witch doctors and spiritual healers are common in rural parts of Malaysia where superstitious beliefs have long been entrenched.

[News Source]

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Banana growers earn more

Stored under News on June 21, 2007

Hawaii banana growers produced 20 million usable pounds of bananas in 2006, almost as much as in 2005, and got a better price for what they grew.

"Weather for 2006 was mixed for banana production," said Mark Hudson, director of the National Agricultural Statistics Service Hawaii Field Office. "Six weeks of heavy rainfall from late February through March resulted in slow fruit maturation in many orchards."

Statewide banana acreage in 2006 grew 5 percent to 1,200 acres and harvested acreage grew 2 percent to 1,000 acres. Production is down from peak seasons around 2000 and 2001 but higher than most years from the mid-1990s back to the 1940s.

The 20 million pounds utilization was down 4 percent from 2005 but the average farm price rose 12 percent, or more than a nickel a pound, to 49 cents per pound for fresh bananas.

The higher prices pushed the total farm value of Hawaii's banana crops up 7 percent, from $9.2 million in 2005 to $9.8 million in 2006.

In the same period the United States imported 8.5 billion pounds of bananas, with three countries each contributing more than 900 metric tons -- Costa Rica, Ecuador and Guatemala.

[News Source]

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Why we're all going bananas

Stored under News on June 14, 2007

By Kate Colquhoun Thursday June 14 2007

They're healthy, cheaper than ever and, believe it or not, they're not actually a fruit. Kate Colquhoun reports

The banana has never been a more popular part of our diet. We spend millions of euro every year on the curvy yellow herb. Yes! It's not, strictly speaking, a fruit at all. And according to reports this week, our favourite "fruit"' has never been cheaper.

The world's favourite "fruit" is now our most popular foodstuff, uniquely portable and with apparently legion health benefits. Rich in iron, it is the perfect prophylactic against anaemia and (if you can face it) rubbing the inside of its skin over your body is said to repel mosquitos. It may stave off depression, can mollify morning sickness and hangovers, and its B6 and B12 vitamins may even help you give up smoking. Old wives' tales would even have us believe that they can help us remember our dreams.

Researchers have now proved that just two bananas, packed with their three natural sugars - fructose, sucrose and glucose - plus their fibre and carbohydrate content, can provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout, delivering an instant, sustained and substantial boost with a trifling calorie count of 107. They are scoffed by tennis pros on centre court. Compared to the lunchtime apple, the banana is also more of a man-food.

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Twinkie making a return to its banana-creme roots

Stored under News on June 13, 2007

By LAUREN SHEPHERD AP Business Writer © 2007 The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Twinkie lovers: Get ready to go bananas.

The sweet treat known for its golden spongy cake and its creamy vanilla center is returning to its roots with banana-creme filling — the flavor that first made the snack a hit with sweet-toothed people more than 70 years ago.

Hostess, owned by Kansas City-based Interstate Bakeries Corp., began selling the banana-creme snack cakes last week at retail stores nationwide. The filling tastes just as sweet as the standard vanilla but with a subtle hint and smell of banana.

Old-timers may remember the taste from the pre-World War II years. From 1930, when the Twinkie was invented, to the 1940s, Twinkies were filled solely with banana creme. But a banana shortage during the war forced Hostess bakers to replace it with the vanilla flavor.
Hostess reintroduced the flavor during limited-time promotions in the past, but always took the treat off the shelves when the promotion ended.

The company was finally convinced to make the flavor part of its lineup for good after Hostess offered it for four weeks last year for the release of the movie "King Kong." Total Twinkie sales jumped 20 percent during the promotion.

Hostess sells over half a billion Twinkies each year.

[News Source]

Have you tried the original banana flavored twinkies? What is your opinion on them?

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Late, but Great, Banana Split Centenary

Stored under News on June 7, 2007

This week, fans are celebrating the birth of that enduring symbol of America's bygone soda-fountain era, the banana split. On June 8 and 9, Wilmington, Ohio, is holding its 13th annual Banana Split Festival, this year marking the 100th anniversary of the banana split's invention by one of its citizens, E.R. Hazard.

Problem is, Wilmington may have missed the banana boat by three years. Most sundae experts (yes, there are some) think that the banana split was created in 1904, about 275 miles away, by David Strickler, a pharmacy clerk in Latrobe, Penn.

Despite the evidence jeopardizing Wilmington's claim to fame, its centenary bash is still on. After all, the story of how local restaurateur Hazard made culinary history in 1907 by flanking three scoops of ice cream with a banana cut lengthwise is a key source of community pride. For decades, folks have heard how Hazard devised the treat to attract more students from nearby Wilmington College. People have grown up guffawing over how Hazard's cousin, Clinton, predicted the name "banana split" would not catch on.

Facts that seem to pull the peel out from under Wilmington's legacy are simply shrugged off.

"We think the controversy is fun," says Mary Gibson, owner of Gibson's Goodies, the shop that provides the ice cream for the festival. "Until pretty recently, we'd never heard of the Latrobe, Pennsylvania, claim. I guess news didn't used to travel as fast."

Advertising for the upcoming celebration notes that the Latrobe complication "won't dampen spirits" and that "thousands will still flock to Wilmington to sample an old-fashioned banana split."

So what does Latrobe have to say about upsetting Wilmington's banana cart?

"We've got clear evidence that William Strickler invented the banana split right here in the Tassell Pharmacy at 805 Ligonier St. when he was a 23-year-old clerk," says Joseph "Ice Cream Joe" Greubel, president of the Valley Dairy restaurant chain.

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Banana virus scare grips China

Stored under News on May 31, 2007

A rumour which claims bananas contain a virus similar to Sars has spread by text message throughout China.

The scare, which authorities have been quick to point out has no truth in it, hit the price of bananas from China's Hainan island, the state media said.

Producers in Hainan say the resulting price slump is costing them up to 20 million yuan (£1.3 million) a day.

[News Source]

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Banana prices heading north

Stored under News on May 17, 2007

The price of bananas is again on the rise, but it is not expected to reach the heights experienced after Cyclone Larry struck far north Queensland last year.

The Australian Banana Growers Council says prices became as low as $2 a kilo when supply of the fruit improved in February.

But CEO Tony Heidrich says the cooler weather has since brought a dip in production.

"Bananas are extremely sensitive to changes in either the demand or supply side of the market and that's primarily because everybody in Australia pretty much eats bananas and they eat them on a weekly basis," he said.

"So anytime you see a dip in supply like we're seeing now, you see a corresponding increase in price.

"At the end of the day the banana growers don't set the prices, consumers set the prices and they vote with their feet.

"If the retails are charging more than they think bananas should be worth at that point in time then they simply don't buy them."

Mr Heidrich says banana prices should drop again in August or September.

[News Source]

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Chiquita struggles on after Q1 loss

Stored under News on May 10, 2007

Leading banana supplier Chiquita has reported a $3m loss for its first quarter, hit by increased industry costs, unfavorable pricing and an exit from unprofitable business in Chile.

Announced last week, the results for the quarter ended March 31 2007 reveal the firm's continuing difficulties after more than a year in a challenging operating environment.

But according to chairman and chief executive officer Fernando Aguirre, Chiquita has made progress in its "strategy to return to profitable, sustainable growth."

The firm plans to focus on increasing its financial flexibility, simplifying its business model and developing branded, innovative products to increase market share.

"Overall, while we have faced several obstacles in recent quarters, I am confident that Chiquita is on the right path, and we saw tangible signs of progress in the first quarter. We remain committed to deliver sustainable, profitable growth, and we expect 2007 to be a positive step in reaching those goals," said Aguirre.

Total net sales for the quarter increased by 3 percent to $1.2bn, boosted by an 8 percent increase in banana sales. But profit for the firm's banana segment was hit by higher industry costs, such as purchased fruit, ship charters and fuel, as well as higher European banana tariffs and lower European banana pricing. Operating income for the segment was down 11 percent from last year, to $33m.

The company claimed it made progress in its European banana business by growing volume and maintaining its premium market position and profitability, despite last year's regulatory changes, which imposed higher tariffs on imported bananas.

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Stored under News on May 3, 2007

A BANANA price war is raging between Britain's top three supermarkets.

Shoppers can now buy a pound of bananas for just 30p.

But fair trade campaigners warned it will "unleash a wave of human misery".

They say poor workers in Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean will be paid even less than their current 33p an hour.
Asda fired the first salvo by dropping the cost of loose bananas by 17p to 68p a kilogramme.

Sainsbury's and Tesco immediately matched the price.

Joanna Blythman, author of Bad Food Britain, singled out Asda for starting the cost cutting.

"Shame on Asda" she said. "This is just the sort of eye-popping price war that Asda Wal-Mart likes to use to pull customers into its stores."

She said a similar price war in 2002 caused misery in the Third World.

But Asda said: "We are completely taking the hit ourselves. It is completely our investment. Banana growers at the sharp end won’t be affected."

Sainsbury's also said they would pay for the price cuts from profit margins.

[News Source]

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Rustic recipes, rich desserts give the simple banana a well-rounded appeal

Stored under News on April 26, 2007

When the availability of vibrantly flavored fruits takes a dip in early spring, or when the supermarket is lacking in inspiration, I turn to the humble banana. Their presence in markets year-round offers endless, delicious possibilities.

Cooking bananas intensifies their flavor and renders their sweet flesh silky and meltingly tender. For an instant, over-the-top parfait or sundae, caramelize bananas briefly in a skillet and pile them into bowls with vanilla ice cream, warm caramel sauce and toasted pecans. Since bananas have affinities with many flavors, this basic theme invites improvisations.

For a sauce, use warm chocolate, dulce de leche (the South American milk caramel) or a puree of raspberries, strawberries or blackberries (the strained pureelike pulp of passion fruit is marvelous) and, of course, whipped cream or creme fraiche. For toppings, bananas love all kinds of toasted nuts, including walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias, pistachios, crushed toffee or nut brittles and toasted coconut. Arrange baby marshmallows on top of caramelized bananas and broil them until toasted and molten.

The same caramelized bananas can be sandwiched between sheets of baked puff or butter pastry - or thin butter cookies, for that matter - along with some whipped cream for a surprising free-form Napoleon.

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Banana growers weigh up levy to fight disease

Stored under News on April 12, 2007

The NSW banana industry is looking at supporting a national industry levy if assurances are given to finance control of diseases such as bunchy top.

Local growers were reluctant to support the levy the first time around last year, but they are now warming to the idea following assurances of funds for disease control.

Chairman of Bananas NSW Nicky Singh says many banana growers would welcome a study to look at ways of eradicating the disease.

"If we can eradicate it from the Australian mainland it would be a first anywhere in the world," he said.

"That's what we're aiming for, it can be done if the growers cooperate."

[News Source]

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Internet can reveal your banana's birthplace

Stored under News on April 5, 2007

Unless you hand pick it off the tree or out of the ground yourself, produce and other food can arrive as mysteriously as your dreams these days.

Who raised this turkey? Where on earth did those soybeans sprout?

Maybe you don't care, in which case there are plenty of food companies more than happy not to provide you with answers.

For everyone else - the people who wouldn't mind knowing a thing or two about the birthplace of their bananas - there's Organic Valley. And Heritage Farms. And, to some extent, Dole.

Such web-savvy organizations and others are providing innovative ways for individuals to make the connection between food and farm. Meanwhile, as such tools illuminate certain food chains, the ones remaining in the dark seem, by contrast, increasingly opaque.

"The more transparency in the food chain, the better," said Michael Pollan, (, a leading investigative food writer and author of the recent book "The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals."

"It's an interesting way for companies doing food sustainably and justly and humanely to make a statement and distinguish themselves and essentially say, 'Look, we've got nothing to hide.'

"And I think that that could have a very positive effect on the industry, if they start competing on the basis of transparency rather than price."

While much of what we put in our bodies still has a derivation of mystery (did it grow in the grocery store?), we are, item by item, able to begin lifting the shade - at least in some cases. And those cases stand out.

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Banana farmers to reap relief from EU

Stored under News on March 29, 2007

Banana farmers who were affected by hurricanes Emily and Dennis are to receive inputs valued at $122 million from the European Union (EU).

Some 1,002 hectares of banana farms are to be rehabilitated in St. Mary, Portland and St. Thomas.

Agriculture Minister, Roger Clarke, expressed his appreciation to the EU for its continued support to the island's banana industry. He said the EU has contributed approximately ??45 million or J$4 billion to the industry since 1996. He was speaking yesterday at the Agriculture Ministry's head office at Hope Gardens, St. Andrew.

The Banana Trading Company is to distribute the inputs, which include fertilisers, herbicides, polythene sleeves and fungicide, from its office in Port Antonio, Portland.

Ready for fair trade

In the meantime, Mr. Clarke said the EU has recently donated $74.3 million to assist farmers in achieving EUREPGAP certification. This, the minister explained, would enable the country to be fair-trade prepared.

"Against the background of the gradual erosion of preferential tariffs for our bananas exported to Europe, this "fair-trade is creating a niche market opportunity, which we must seek to exploit at all cost," he said.

Head of the European Commission delegation in Jamaica, Ambassador Marco Alemani, pledged to continue assisting the island in the various programmes aimed at aiding development.

[News Source]

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Banana crop's existence threatened by fungus

Stored under News on March 22, 2007

Fruit distributor Chiquita has said bananas are "quite possibly the world's perfect fruit" since 1989.

But the safety of the banana crop is being jeopardized by a fungal disease with no way to stop the spreading of the disease.

Randy Ploetz, professor of plant pathology at the University of Florida, said the banana is being threatened by Panama disease.

The $12 billion industry is being threatened by a fungus that cannot be combatted by any fungicides.

"Once you've got it, it's an insolvable problem," Ploetz said. "You want to keep that pathogen far away."

There is more to the fruit than just Bananas Foster and banana splits. Bananas are a staple food for over a half a billion people in Africa and Asia, according to the botanic gardens conservation international Web site.

Panama disease threatens the cavendish, the type of banana most commonly eaten in the United States and Europe.

"It's a lethal disease," Ploetz said. "It gets in the plants vascular system, plugs up the plumbing and kills."

Ploetz said it is difficult to tell if and when the disease would move to the Americas.

"Its not an airborne pathogen," Ploetz said. "Its caused by a fungus and has a really broad host range. The cavendish banana is one of many types grown around the world."

Ploetz said the disease is currently in southeast Asia, but it is traveling.

"It's found mainly in southeast Asia, but it just jumped to the Philippines," Ploetz said.

Ploetz said it is difficult to see exactly how the disease moved from the Indonesian islands to the Philippines, but it happened in the last five years.

"There's a lot of people from islands in the Indonesian chain who have island hopped and brought it from Indonesia," Ploetz said.

But Ploetz has concerns of how easy the disease to travels.

And experts are worried the disease could cross the ocean and affect the crops grown in Latin America.

Ploetz said the fungus can be spread by one person bringing a banana in a suitcase from one country to another.


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Chiquita to pay $25M in terror case

Stored under News on March 15, 2007

WASHINGTON - Banana company Chiquita Brands International said Wednesday it has agreed to a $25 million fine after admitting it paid a Colombian terrorist group for protection in a volatile farming region.

The settlement resolves a lengthy Justice Department investigation into the company's financial dealings with terrorist organizations in Colombia.

In court documents filed Wednesday, federal prosecutors said several unnamed high-ranking corporate officers at the Cincinnati-based company paid about $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004 to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known as AUC for its Spanish initials.

The AUC has been responsible for some of the worst massacres in Colombia's civil conflict and for a sizable percentage of the country's cocaine exports. The right-wing group was designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization in September 2001.

Prosecutors said the company made the payments in exchange for protection for its workers. The company also made similar payments to the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, according to prosecutors.

Colombia's banana-growing region is a zone over which leftist rebels and far-right paramilitaries have fought viciously. Most companies have extensive security operations to protect employees in the area.

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Wash your bananas (and other lessons in cleaning produce)

Stored under News on March 1, 2007

When it comes to motivating people to wash their produce before eating it, visuals seem to help.

Potatoes, for instance. No food safety argument is needed when dirt is that easy to see and feel. But how about tomatoes and apples, which arrive at the grocer flawless and shiny? And bananas and watermelons, the skins and rinds of which you’ll never eat?

Getting people to wash those — yes, even the bananas — just takes a different sort of visual.

“Probably 100 people handled that banana before you did,” says Ann Zander, a food safety expert with the Colorado State University Extension in Longmont, Colo. “If you have somebody who hasn’t washed his hands after the bathroom or has the flu, that’s all over it.”

How’s that for motivation? Here’s the best way to wash your fruits and vegetables:

Wash everything. Virtually all produce should be washed at home just before it is eaten. Washing in advance can reduce shelf life and promote bacterial growth.

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Uganda to introduce genetically engineered banana

Stored under News on February 22, 2007

Uganda could soon introduce genetically modified bananas after a successful genetically engineered sweet banana variety proved resistant to pests and diseases.

The technology will improve the quality of banana, an important food and cash crop whose production has declined due to diseases, especially the banana wilt disease. Genetically engineered bananas will also contribute to food security and improve household incomes. Almost 24.5 per cent of Ugandan household’s income is contributed by bananas. Some 70 per cent of farmers grow them as a staple food as well as for brewing local liquor.

Scientists estimate that if the technology is applied to other varieties, the country could save up to $8 billion it is said to have earmarked in the next five years for fighting the banana bacterial wilt disease. The disease is currently ravaging the country and spreading to Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.

The genetically engineered variety was developed by Geoffrey Arinaitwe, a Ugandan scientist based in Belgium who has now applied to the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) for a permit to import it to Uganda.

“The Council has already cleared it for field testing after importation from Belgium. This innovation will pave the way for research on other varieties to make them resistant to diseases,” said Arthur Makara, the biosafety desk officer at the Council, the country’s leading institution for science, technology and innovation development.

The tested banana type will be brought to the Kawanda Research Institute (Kari), which has just completed construction of a greenhouse to field test bananas for resistance to bacterial wilt and black sigatoka fungal disease, said Andrew Kiggundu, a plant biotechnologist at Kari. The bacterial wilt is highly destructive, wiping out at least 90 per cent of the fruit on the trees it affects. When it affects a tree, it becomes poisonous to both humans and animals.

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Artist hopes to float giant banana over Texas

Stored under News on February 15, 2007

A Montreal artist wants to construct an enormous banana that would float over Texas, but critics say the project isn't worth government funding.

Cesar Saez conceived the project, called "Geostationary Banana Over Texas," and prefers to let the art speak for itself.

When asked why he would want a helium-inflated 300-metre banana to hover above Texas for a month, he simply told CTV Montreal: "Texas is as symbolic as the banana."

Then he added: "The banana has a lot of symbolism: phallic, humour, and political, too."

But some people were less than amused by the idea, considering both the federal and Quebec governments have already spent thousands of dollars for Saez's research and planning.

"I'm paying $65,000 to send a banana to space?" one woman balked.

Another said the money should have been spent on solving Montreal's homelessness problem instead.

The Canada Council for the Arts has defended the project, arguing Saez is an established artist and his proposal was chosen by a jury of his peers.

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Agri agents ready control over banana wilt disease

Stored under News on February 15, 2007

Cagayan de Oro City (12 February) -- No disease outbreaks have yet alarmed the banana areas in region 10, but experts and agricultural agents are optimizing controls to contain the banana fusarium wilt disease in its cage.

Banana Fusarium Wilt, also known as Panama Disease is one of the most widespread and destructive diseases of banana world wide. The causal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (Foc) attacks the vascular system of bananas thus obstructing uptake of water and soil nutrients resulting in wilting and death of the plants and loss of fruits. It has been known that the pathogen survives in the soil for many years even without its primary host growing in the area.

External symptoms include the wilting, yellowing of the foliage where the oldest leaves are the first to turn yellow, vascular discoloration on leaf bases, splitting of pseudostem base, irregular pale margins, narrowing, burning and ripping of lamina in newly-grown leaves and petiole buckling. Internal symptoms can be determined by slicing off the lower portion of the corm horizontally until the transverse cut is about ¼ of the way up the corm.

The disease traces its beginnings at the Western Hemisphere, particularly Costa Rica and Panama in 1890. Despite its widespread distribution, the disease is best known for its impact on a relatively small segment of world production, and export trades.

In the Philippines, Les and Serrano studies in 1920 accounts that the banana disease is first reported on that year on cultivar Latundan in Los Banos and Calamba, Province of Laguna and municipalities of Batangas.

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New banana threat as cyclone looms

Stored under News on February 8, 2007

Residents in far north Queensland are on cyclone alert, as two tropical lows threaten to strengthen and batter the region.

Queensland's first tropical cyclone of the season will hit Cape York with high winds and torrential rains by tomorrow, the Bureau of Meteorology says.

Forecaster Tony Wedd said a low pressure system which had travelled along the Northern Territory coast had been upgraded to a category one cyclone - dubbed tropical cyclone Nelson - at 8am (AEST) today due north of Mornington Island.

"It's moving to the east, south-east, towards the south-western Cape York peninsula," Mr Wedd said.

"It'll probably make landfall on that south-western Cape York peninsular coast some time tomorrow, maybe around lunch time or maybe a bit earlier."

By then it could have grown into a category two cyclone bringing heavy rain and strong winds to the region, or it could weaken to a rain depression as early as tomorrow evening, he said.

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Australian banana drought rebounds to excess

Stored under News on February 1, 2007

Australian banana production in the north eastern state of Queensland has returned to normal in areas devastated by Cyclone Larry last year.

The entire crop was wiped out and pushed the price of bananas to nearly $US12 a kilogram.

However, the growing conditions are now so good there is a oversupply in the market.

Cartons of bananas are now selling for nearly $US12, but farmers need around $US14 to break even.

Banana farmer Frank Grant says the glut is especially devastating for the farmers in the Queensland town of Innisfail who lost everything in the cyclone.

"Because they've had no income since the cyclone, they got devastated, they lost their homes, they've lost everything," he said.

"They've worked hard to try and get their crop right and now we turn around and we've got an oversupply of bananas.

"It's a hard one to cop."

[News Source]

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Banana farmers prepare for new EU certification

Stored under News on February 1, 2007

THE ISLAND'S banana producers are undergoing an intensive programme of preparation to meet the certification standards under the European Union Retail Parties Good Agricultural Practices (EUREPGAP) system.

Director of Research at the Banana Industry Board, Janet Coney, said preparation included improving farm practices, documentation procedures, and "generally trying to bring about a culture change of farmers as it relates to audit and certification".

According to Ms. Coney, the banana industry has been in preparation to meet the EUREPGAP standards for sometime and come March and April this year, an audit of some 50 farms would be carried out by the international certifying body.

"Certification at the moment is not for all farms because it requires a great deal of infrastructural change as well as a high level of technology and husbandry," she explained, noting that an additional 50 farms would be added to the programme come 2008.

As part of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) exporting nations, Jamaica has access to a number of European markets including the United Kingdom.

However, to continue to access these markets, farmers are required to meet some 200 standards relating to safety, quality assurance and sustainability in agricultural practices, in keeping with the EUREPGAP system.

In a few years, producers will be required to meet all 200 standards and the EU Banana Support Programme is providing assistance in the process.

[News Source]

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St Lucia's banana exports grow in 2006

Stored under News on January 18, 2007

The Banana Emergency Recovery Unit (BERU) says notwithstanding a decline of farmers in the field, St. Lucia has recorded a 7.5 per cent increase in production and exports for 2006.

Hilary La Force, head of the government body, charged with breathing life into this critical earner, told CMC that the number of farmers dropped by 300, from 1,800 in 2005 to 1,500 last year.

The rise in the exports to the United Kingdom market has resulted in EC$14 million of increased earnings to farmers.

However, La Force said banana produced was still below past performance and was at its third highest point in 15 years - in 1992 production peaked above 132,000 tonnes and export earnings were US$72 million.

"We still have a long way to go if we wish to attain production levels that the industry can provide," said the BECU head.

Banana remains 41 per cent of the country's exports.

Banana officials predict bright days ahead for the industry, saying a number of farmers appear to be heading back into production following the December election victory of Sir John Compton's United Workers Party.

Former chairman of the St. Lucia Banana Growers Association, Rupert Gajadhar, said that farmers are encouraged by the return of Sir John as head of government.

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Dutch grocery staff find drugs in banana boxes

Stored under News on January 11, 2007

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch supermarket staff found millions of dollars worth of cocaine stashed in banana boxes as they were unpacking them, police said.

The drugs, 50 kilos of cocaine, had a value of 5-6 million euros (3.4-4 million pounds), a police spokesman said.

The drugs were found in the towns of Hoensbroek and Brunssum in the province of Limburg.

Supermarket employees discovered the cocaine hidden under bananas in three boxes, the spokesman said.

It was unclear how the cocaine ended up in the supermarkets.

"There probably must have been a logistic mistake," the spokesman said, adding a Colombian label indicated a South American origin for the drugs.

[Reuters News Article]

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Finland: Kesko Food opens new banana ripening facility

Stored under News on January 11, 2007

Kesko Food opens a new banana ripening facility in Hakkila, Vantaa, today. The energy-saving heat economy control system guarantees that bananas available for K-food store customers will be of higher quality than ever. The ripening facility is the third one in Europe based on the corresponding technology.

Over 20 million kilos of bananas are bought from K-food stores annually. In the future, all bananas sold at K-food stores will ripe in the new facility in Vantaa. In addition to Chiquita, K-food stores mainly sell Fairtrade bananas and Rico, the K-Group's private label.

When arriving to Finland, bananas are green and unripe. They have been allowed to grow in their native soil for about nine months before having been loaded into ships for transportation. The ripening process takes some 4-8 days. When bananas ripen, they generate some heat and turn yellow.

The greatest advantage of the ripening facility is its reliability. While ripening is highly automated, most of the work is related to filling and emptying the rooms. The facility saves energy as it is tighter than old ones and the fans are more adjustable. Improved air circulation makes bananas ripen and colour more evenly.

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Mickel to address banana industry labour shortage woes

Stored under News on January 4, 2007

The Employment Minister will meet north Queensland banana growers today to discuss the growing labour shortage.

Banana production has now reached the same level as pre-Cyclone Larry, with prices now about $4 per kilogram on supermarket shelves.

Minister John Mickel will host an employment summit today in Cairns, in the state's far north.

The chief executive of the Australian Banana Growers Association, Tony Heidrich, says a shortage of fruit pickers means farmers are falling behind on workloads and fruit quality is suffering.

"What the cyclone has really done is emphasise the problems that we had and compounded them to some extent, particularly in regards to the shortage of skilled labour - jobs within the banana industry that require a certain level of skill or training," he said.

""There's also some issues with accommodation."

[News Source]

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Will the US Become a Banana Republic?

Stored under News on December 28, 2006

Thomas Friedman expressed the view that if the Republicans had remained in control of the House and the Senate, the US would have become a banana republic. But a banana republic isn't characterised only by a rotten political system, ruled by a small, wealthy, and corrupt clique usually put in power or supported by foreign interests (in the 20th century, in the case of several Central and Latin American countries, by the US), but also by huge wealth and income inequities, poor infrastructure, backwardness in many sectors of the economy, low capital spending, a reliance on foreign capital, money printing and budget deficits, and of course a weakening currency.

A banana republic is also characterised by a ruling class that curtails people's personal freedoms and is moving towards a heavyhanded military dictatorship under the excuse of fighting guerrilla (or terrorist) opposition groups or enemies. Moreover, the fact that the ruling class or the elite comes from different political parties isn't a relevant factor in classifying a country as a banana republic; what is relevant is the determination of the elite, irrespective of which party its members belong to, to shift wealth from the majority of the people (the masses) to themselves, usually through simply printing money and incurring chronic budget deficits, and frequently also through senseless warfare.

Now, I am not insinuating that the US is already a banana republic, but the trend is undoubtedly there. The physical infrastructure is more often than not totally insufficient. Not a single flight I took in the US was on time, with one arriving 10 hours late, another 12 hours late, while two were cancelled altogether, resulting in delays of more than 4 hours. In Philadelphia, my US Air flight was delayed by three hours. The plane was on the ground in front of us, the pilots were all present, as well as one flight attendant (air hostess). But because a second flight attendant was unavailable in Philadelphia, one had to be flown in from Washington, so delaying my flight. Since there was no service provided on the flight, I wondered what purpose the additional attendant might have served.

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Rejected bananas are still money earners

Stored under News on December 21, 2006

GENERAL SANTOS CITY - "Rejects" or cavendish bananas in T'boli, South Cotabato that do not pass export quality standards are still money earners: they are sold to local traders as ingredient for making animal feeds.

Winnie Osorio, community relations and development officer of the Upland Banana Corp. said it is the policy of the firm that "bananas not suited for export shall not be disposed in the local markets for consumption of the people (because we don't want to compete with local producers).

Upland Banana is under the Davao-City-based AJMR Group, which is headed by Alberto M. Soriano. In 2004, Japanese firm Sumifru Corp poured investments of about P2.1 billion for AJMR's expansion.

Upland Banana's products are marketed in Japan by AJMR, the third biggest banana producer in the Philippines.

Osorio said T'bolis, the natives of the area, are earning additional money by chopping the rejected bananas for drying. The dried bananas are then used as feed ingredient.

"Our only concern is that these reject bananas provide additional livelihoods to the (T'bolis). There are at least 12 barangays in the town that serve as buying and chopping stations of rejects," he said.

Just two years in operations, Upland Banana is now employing some 3,800 workers, most of them T'bolis. The firm has planted bananas in at least 1,700 hectares out of its 3,000 hectare-development area.

Osorio said the company is working with the local government unit to strengthen the economic capacities of the town's households.

As part of empowering the T'bolis' economic lot, he said, the company has put up a vegetable seed production center for free distribution to the communities.

Dominador Siloterio, the town's information officer, said the company is coordinating with the local government unit for its social responsibility program.

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Overturned banana truck closes I-71 ramp

Stored under News on December 14, 2006

An overturned tractor-trailer that was hauling bananas Wednesday night forced the closure of the ramp from Interstate 71 North to the Watterson Expressway.

The accident happened just after 10 p.m. One person was taken to Baptist Hospital East with minor injuries, authorities said.

The left lane of the ramp was re-opened about a half-hour later, but it was not clear when the truck and its contents would be cleared from the right lane.

The initial report was that the truck cab was on fire, but firefighters arrived to find only smoke coming from the engine, according to MetroSafe dispatchers.

The semi took out a light pole in the wreck.

The state highway department was called in to handle the pole and to bring an electronic arrow sign to block the affected part of the ramp as workers cleaned up the mess, dispatchers said.

[News Source]

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More challenges ahead for banana industry

Stored under News on December 7, 2006

There could be more challenges for the island's banana industry as low-cost Latin American banana producers pressure the European Union (EU) to further reduce the preferential tariff on bananas coming from non-African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

Last Thursday, Colombia joined Ecuador, the world's largest exporter of bananas, in complaining to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that the EU's 175-euro tariff was still too high and was unfair to Latin American banana producers.

This latest development has come at a time when the banana sector in Jamaica is still recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, which plunged production to an all-time low of just over 11,000 tonnes in 2005.

Dr. Marshall Hall, managing director of the Jamaica Producers Group, the largest commercial grower and exporter of bananas in Jamaica, told Farmers Weekly that it would be virtually impossible for the industry to survive if the preferential tariff is reduced below 175 euros. "It would be very hard to survive anything beyond 175 euros," he stressed.

Agriculture and Lands Minister, Roger Clarke, in commenting on the actions of the Latin Americans on Tuesday, said the 18- member ACP cluster would be fighting strenuously to have the tariff remain at 175 euros. "And we have real support out of Spain and France," he added.

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Banana dramas over as prices once more 'apeel'

Stored under News on November 30, 2006

KIAL Lundin-Bingham has been going bananas without his daily dose of the 'good mood' fruit.

But with prices expected to drop to just $2.99 per kilogram by Christmas, the six-year-old's favourite meal of banana sandwiches will be back on the menu.

He's been stuck with cereal since Cyclone Larry devastated Queensland's banana industry, pushing prices past $12 a kilo.

Kial's beloved bananas were rationed to only three a week, but his big brother Damon was forced to go without while prices were at a premium.

"It's not fair," said Damon, relieved his suffering would end at Christmas if retailers' predictions come true.

Lee Matthey, who manages Coco's Fresh Food Market in Southport, said the price of bananas should be $2.99kg by the end of the year, the lowest they have been since Cyclone Larry.

"Prices dropped by $30 a box last week," he said. "The sign in the market is that we are down to a pretty good trend now.

"Especially if Woolworth's have had to follow the trend because they were sitting at $8 or $9 a kilo for as long as possible."

The cost of Cavendish bananas at Coco's yesterday was $6.99 a kilo, with sales increasing accordingly.

"We were probably going through 100 kilos a week when they were over $10 a kilo. This week we have sold 500 kilos," he said.

At one stage Coco's were selling bananas for $11.98 a kilo.

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Ecuador Files Fresh Complaint Against EU Banana Tariffs, Quotas

Stored under News on November 16, 2006

Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Ecuador, the world's biggest banana exporter, called on the World Trade Organization to rule that the European Union has ignored the arbiter's decisions and continues to discriminate against its shipments of the fruit.

The 25-nation bloc has lost a series of disputes with banana-growing nations led by Ecuador, Costa Rica and Colombia for the last decade over its system for allocating quotas and duty-free imports from former its colonies. The EU, the world's biggest importer of bananas, sources 3.4 million tons of its 4 million-ton consumption from Latin America.

The European Commission, the EU's executive body, said today that Ecuador's complaint is ``unfortunate.'' The EU agreed this week to renew duty-free quotas for growers in Africa and the Caribbean and since the start of the year has applied new tariff of 176 euros ($225) a ton on as much as $1.45 billion worth of bananas from Latin growers.

Bananas are the world's fourth most-valuable food crop, after wheat, rice and corn, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.

[News Source]

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Banana bender ends in jail

Stored under News on November 16, 2006

AN ACTOR who played a Bananas in Pyjamas character has been jailed for glassing another woman at a Gold Coast pub last year.

Sara Kaitlyn Hill, 19, played Lulu, a fluffy brown bear friend of the show's B1 and B2 characters, a court heard yesterday.

But mystery surrounds whether Hill actually played Lulu, as her lawyers claimed in court.

The ABC, makers of the Bananas in Pyjamas TV program, said yesterday she had only played another bear, Morgan, on stage.

Hill wept, sobbed and threw up in the dock yesterday after pleading guilty to unlawfully wounding Bronwyn Lee Anscombe, then 24, on July 15 last year.

After the attack, Ms Anscombe underwent plastic surgery to repair deep lacerations in her left cheek, upper lip and forehead.

Defence counsel Sarah Thompson told the Queensland District Court in Southport that Hill had moved to Sydney after the incident, fearing "retribution".

She said her client had been playing Lulu alongside B1 and B2.

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Banana shortage to continue

Stored under News on November 9, 2006

THE promised return of cheap and plentiful bananas in time for Christmas is in jeopardy, because of a severe shortage of fruit pickers.

The Australian Banana Growers' Council says after Cyclone Larry wiped out most of the nation's banana crop in March, many of the industry's long-term workers moved away to find jobs elsewhere.

Now with a much-awaited new crop coming to maturity in north Queensland, Council president Patrick Leahy is worried there won't be enough hands to pick all the fruit.

"The crisis point hasn't come yet," Mr Leahy said. "That's probably going to come in a few weeks time as we get closer to Christmas."

The council estimates north Queensland's banana industry is facing a shortfall of up to 1500 workers - close to half its workforce before Cyclone Larry. It is a problem already facing grower Ron Poppi, who began picking bananas on his 65ha Babinda property a fortnight ago.

He normally has up to 25 workers, but now has only three employees.

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Banana prices are increasing

Stored under News on November 9, 2006

According to information provided by the specialists of "Agrooglyad: Vegetables and Fruits" journal, since the beginning of this week banana prices started to rapidly grow. On Monday the wholesale companies mentioned the sales prices up to $14-14.7/box. This price is significantly higher than the price level recorded in the end of past week when the range was within $11.9-13.1/kg depending from quality and volume of the commodity.

The specialists explained the price increase by two major factors. First of all, according to the earlier forecasts, the demand for bananas has significantly increased as a result of short supply of fresh fruits on market. The second reason for price growth is a good quality of the supplied bananas. The market players pointed out that the quality of newly supplied banana shipments is much better comparing to bananas imported to Ukraine earlier.

The market players forecast that the price for bananas will continue increasing.


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New way to package bananas promises to give them lasting a-peel

Stored under News on November 2, 2006

Bananas that stay yellow and fresh until you're ready to eat them.

Chiquita Brands International says it has developed "the perfectly ripened banana," but South Florida shoppers will decide for themselves.

The Cincinnati-based company is packaging bananas in sealed three-serve packs at its Port Everglades ripening plant and testing them in 10 Publix grocery stores in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Chiquita claims the Fresh & Ready packs of bananas will stay fresh up to four days longer than a traditional bunch.

"We're offering consumers perfectly ripe bananas for the week between their shopping pattern," said Mike Mitchell, a Chiquita spokesman.

The packaged bananas hit six Broward County stores Tuesday. Over the next several months, Chiquita will be gauging customers' response to decide whether to roll them out on a large scale next year, Mitchell said. Besides the 10 Publix stores in South Florida, Chiquita will test the product in dozens of grocery stores in other states, he said, declining to be specific.

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Burundi: banana disease entered country

Stored under News on November 1, 2006

A team of researchers have confirmed for the first time that a harmful banana bacterial disease, known as Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), has made its way into Burundi’s borders from neighboring countries, most likely Tanzania, Rwanda and possibly Democratic Republic of Congo. The survey was sponsored by the Crop Crisis Control project (C3P) led by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in partnership with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

BXW causes early ripening and rotting of the banana fruits, and results in the wilting and death of the plant. Left uncontrolled, BXW could have serious further impacts on the food security situation in Burundi, which was recently declared the most food insecure country in the world by the International Food Policy Research Group (IFPRG).

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Sweet. Bananas To Fuel Methane Plant

Stored under News on October 26, 2006

Over a year ago we mentioned that in the Australian farmers were thinking about using banana waste as a fuel source. The brainstorming is over. With a grant of almost $200,000 AUD just awarded by the Sustainable Industries Division of the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, it's 'all systems go' to build a pilot plant in the town of Tully. This test unit will service a 400 acre banana plantation. It's estimated that between 10% to 30% of crop becomes waste. The project will see if it is commercially viability to convert this residue in a natural gas to power farm tractors, machinery and vehicles. It seems that the bendy yellow things produce a cleaner and less stinky gas, than other methane sources, such as human sewage, piggery or feedlot waste. It is expected the plant will be in operation within 5 months, and then run for a trial year, to see if the concept can be rolled out to other farms.


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Banana boost

Stored under News on October 19, 2006

QUEENSLAND researchers are enriching bananas to alleviate malnutrition in Uganda.

The state's Chief Scientist Professor Peter Andrews outlined the project as an example for others to follow in a major address to CSIRO scientists last week.

He told the scientists that long-term, Queensland should move to help solve its drought problems and alleviate world hunger by focusing on genetically modified food.

"In Uganda, 38 per cent of children under the age of five are stunted by malnutrition," he said.

"Their staple food is bananas, of which Ugandans eat an average of 1kg a day, but which lack sufficient vitamin A, vitamin E and iron for their needs.

"The solution? Professor James Dale at the Queensland University of Technology is working with the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative to genetically enrich Ugandan bananas with these three nutrients."

Professor Andrews said Queensland could help the developing world by building its biotechnology, putting different genes into existing crops to make them more nutritious or less dependent on heavy watering.

While this would take time, cotton and sugar crops which needed less water would be a major advantage to the state, he said.

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Peru will export banana chips to the United States and Europe

Stored under News on October 12, 2006

(LIP-wb) -- Peru's Association of Banana Producers in the district of Salitral (Piura) will begin exporting "chifles" to the United States and Europe starting next month.

Chifles are sliced fried green plantains sliced (1 or 2 mm thick).

Representative Jose Amaya Chunga estimates that next year exports will generate revenues of S/. 1.2 million Nuevo Soles (US$ 370k) from a production of 198 metric tons.

“We will take advantage of 3,600 tons metric of bananas, not only for the chifles production but also for manufacturing banana flour”, Amaya said.

The Association groups 220 partners, with a total of 600 hectares. The production output of exportable organic bananas in this area reaches 14,760 metric tons annually.

[News Source]

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Banana scam split wide open

Stored under News on October 12, 2006

Six more NSW banana growers have been identified as illegally selling bananas in Melbourne's wholesale markets, bringing the total number of growers caught to 16.

This is in addition to those growers from the Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga area, as well as some near Tweed Heads, who were found to have breached interstate trade regulations designed to protect Victoria from fruit fly.

Geoffrey Jackson from the Victorian Department of Primary Industries said he has not seen a banana bust of this scale in years. More growers are expected to be caught as investigations continue.

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With special care, you can grow banana shrubs

Stored under News on October 5, 2006

Q: I was surprised to see the banana shrub on your list of "10 More Indispensables" [Pacific Northwest Magazine, Sept. 10]. The "Sunset Western Garden Book" lists it for zones 6 (borderline), 9, 14-24. Wouldn't it be too tender for our climate? Has global warming raised our zone number?

A: The banana shrub (Michelia figo) is an evergreen magnolia look-alike with large leaves and highly fragrant, creamy yellow flowers. This was a pick of tree-expert Arthur Lee Jacobson, who has had a banana shrub growing happily in his Montlake garden since 1986, which would argue for its hardiness here.

Perhaps this wouldn't be a good choice if you live in the Cascade foothills or another of the Puget Sound basin's colder areas. If you have a warm, sheltered spot in your garden, or live in the city or near water, your garden is probably warm enough to grow a banana shrub.

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Banana lovers rejoice - Israeli company develops bug-resistant bananas

Stored under News on September 28, 2006

If you eat five bananas a week, there's a good chance that one of them has its genetic origins in Israel.

Driving north of Nahariya towards the Lebanese border, you pass fields and fields of banana crops at nearby Achziv as well as on Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra. It's at the latter kibbutz where biotech company Rahan Meristem (1998) LTD, a world leader in banana biotechnology, has its offices and laboratories.

"We're the largest producer of banana tissue cultured plants in the world - producing about 10 million a year. They're sold all around the world. We calculated that approximately 20% of the bananas that are marketed throughout the western world originated or were selected at Rahan," said Dr. Eli Khayat, head of research and development at Rahan and a professor of plant biology at Hebrew University and the Technion.

"Most of our research is on bananas - trying to improve the quality of the crop - using molecular genetics to breed bananas that ripen slower and have a longer shelf life," he told ISRAEL21c. "These are parameters which are important to both the grower and the consumer. Our goal is to breed plants, and given that bananas are seedless, the only means to produce elite clones is by genetic engineering."

With a total production of approximately 60 million tons per year, banana and plantains (bananas which are grown for cooking) have become a major crop worldwide, exported from tropical countries to almost every part of the globe. But as a result of its natural sterility, most banana varieties have yet to be genetically improved via biotechnological tools.

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Varsity develops new banana variety for diabetics

Stored under News on September 21, 2006

Kanpur, Sept 20. (PTI): The Chandra Shekhar Azad University of Agriculture and Technology is developing a new variety of banana for patients of diabetes, who are prohibited from eating the normal variety because of their health condition.

According to scientists, initial experiments of the new variety that would not affect the blood sugar level when consumed have yielded satisfactory results and the variety is likely to be available to the public within a year's time.

While the starch content in the new fruit would be less, other protein and vitamins would be in proper quantity, University's Horticulture department Head G S Gaur said.

Due to low starch in the fruit people suffering from blood sugar would be able to benefit from its mineral and vitamins content, he said.

[News Source]

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The versatile banana can be a quick fix for what ails you

Stored under News on September 21, 2006

Bananas originated in the jungles of Malaysia and, with the help of travelers, found their way from there to India. When Spanish explorers came to the New World, so did the banana.

Sailors aboard ships sailing in the Caribbean brought a few bananas to their families in America. They were introduced to the American public at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. Each banana was wrapped in foil and sold for 10 cents.

Banana is very versatile in the way it is eaten. Bananas are eaten raw, cut in slices with sugar and cream, roasted, fried, boiled, made into fritters, preserves and marmalades.

In Eastern Africa, you can even buy banana beer. The banana is available to grocers yearround because they are harvested every day of the year. The average American eats about 28 pounds of bananas each year.

The banana is a natural remedy for many illnesses. It has twice the vitamins and minerals, four times the protein, and five times the vitamin A and iron when compared to the apple.

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Rare Hawaiian banana plants stolen from garden

Stored under News on September 14, 2006

AHULUI – After losing about $1,000 in landscaping tools and supplies during break-ins over the Labor Day weekend, Maui Nui Botanical Gardens was hoping Tuesday to get back a half-dozen rare native Hawaiian banana plants.

The keiki plants of the manini variety, which has green-and-white striped leaves and fruit, were dug up from the garden at Keopuolani Park during the first break-in on Sept. 4, said Executive Director Lisa Schattenburg-Raymond.

After spreading the word about the thefts, she said she learned Tuesday that someone had sold similar plants to a local business. She spoke with a Maui police officer who planned to investigate further and recover the plants Tuesday afternoon.

“They are just so ornamental. People just go crazy over it,” Schattenburg-Raymond said. “They are the Hawaiian variety, which makes it even more interesting. It was reserved for alii.”

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Banana plantation expansion poses threat to food security

Stored under News on September 14, 2006

Banana plantation expansion poses threat to food security in Davao Norte

The fast expansion of banana plantations in Davao del Norte is seen as a threat to food security in the province.

Provincial agriculture chief Dominador Encarnacion feared that local rice production will not be enough to feed Davao del Norte's population which counts to almost a million.

"What if we would no longer import rice?" he asked as he projected that the estimated production of five tons per hectare of rice will eventually run short for one million residents.

The Year 2005 Annual Report from the Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO) bared a decrease in area coverage of rice and corn production "due to conversion of some areas to banana plantations."

The report showed a total rice production in 2005 was calculated at 173,851 metric tons, showing a difference of 25,235 metric tons or a 12.67 percent decrease from 199,087 metric tons recorded in 2004.

"This decrease can be attributed to the reduction of rice areas during the period from 45,766.35 hectares in 2004 to 41,128.21 hectares in 2005. But contrary to what was feared, PPDO computed the rice sufficiency level at 101.90 percent," Encarnacion said.

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Uganda: Banana Growing Successful in North

Stored under News on September 7, 2006

THE traditional and colonial belief that bananas can not grow well in northern Uganda, has been proved wrong.

"The Langi and Acholi have missed out on banana and coffee. These crops also do well in our soils," says Grace Akullu, a prosperous banana farmer in Amac sub-county, Lira district.

Akullu, a former primary school teacher with a diploma in agriculture, told The New Vision at an interview recently, that she sells a bunch of bananas from sh3,000 to sh5,000 in Lira town and Amac market.

"From the proceeds, we have built a four-bedroom permanent house and I can pay fees for my two children in secondary school," she said.

Akullu said menvu (sweet bananas) and bogoya were selling like hot cakes in markets and towns.

In Uganda, bananas are a major crop in the central, eastern and western regions. The north is a preserve for cotton, millet and cassava growing. But Akullu's experiment is an eye-opener to farmers in the north.

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Banana traders bend on price

Stored under News on August 31, 2006

ANANAS have already dropped to below $10 a kilogram in parts of Sydney and Melbourne as greengrocers prepare for an influx of the fruit in coming months that will send prices tumbling.

There are now twice as many bananas being packed off to supermarkets as there were in the winter months after Cyclone Larry devastated the north Queensland growing region.

Banana Traders of Australia managing director Greg Bradshaw said independent grocers had given up on making a profit from bananas and had dropped prices to below cost level to entice customers back to the fruit.

"The independent retailers have suffered with a loss of turnover and trying to make a profit out of bananas was futile because it was affecting their gross turnover," he said.

"Their turnover has gone up considerably and I think Coles and Woolworths supermarkets are now under pressure to match those prices ... they are selling extremely well."

Consumers paid as much as $15 a kilogram after Larry wiped out about 90 per cent of the national crop earlier this year.

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"Behind the banana leaf" photo exhibition to open

Stored under News on August 24, 2006

VietNamNet Bridge – 10 photos themed "behind the banana leaf" taken by Tran Huy Hoan, a famous photographer, will be showcased in Hanoi from September 14 to October 14. All 10 photos are black and white. They depict the natural beauty of women’s bodies. Banana leaves, conical hats, bamboo birdcages, porcelain vases are employed in the photos to make the figures more realistic and more impressive.

Explaining why he chose these things, Hoan said that they were typically Vietnamese and part of everyday life in Vietnam.

The acclaim he has received with these photos is due to his portrayal of the timeless from a modern angle.

The exhibition will be organised at Mosaique Livingroom, 23 Ngo Van So Street, Hanoi.


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A hand of prize-winning bananas

Stored under News on August 21, 2006

There may be fewer bananas around this year, following Cyclone Larry in Far North Queensland, but that doesn't mean the quality of the fruit has dropped.

That's the consensus after the Ekka, when many 'hands' (what shoppers usually refer to as a 'bunch') of bananas were still sent in for display and judging.

Tony Heidrich, CEO of Australian Banana Growers (and otherwise known as the King Banana) was pleasantly surprised by the amount of entries. "I think a lot of people probably thought that with the cyclone this year, bananas would be a bit light on this year, but fortunately the growers in the south here came to the party and we’ve had some excellent exhibits this year," he says.

There was very little fruit send in from North Queensland, however. "Usually they always send bunches down," laments Tony. "There was a couple of bunches from the north this year, but of course there’s very little fruit around up there."

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Study shows consumers buying grapes over bananas

Stored under News on July 31, 2006

When Larry devastated the vast majority of Australia’s banana plantations in March this year, the price of the much-loved fruit escalated from as low as $2.00 per kilo to anywhere up to $14.00 per kilo, but have Aussies been prepared to shell out for their favourite fruit? Apparently not, according to new research from AC Nielsen.

The latest research reveals that purchasing of bananas has plummeted by more than 50 percentage points, from an average of 71% of households in June 2005 to just 21% of households in June 2006.

Of the two in 10 households stoically maintaining their banana consumption, the average spent per kilo is up by 140% versus the same time last year ($11.15 per kilo compared to just $4.63 in June 2005), helping to soften the overall dollar impact on the category from those consumers who have opted to switch to alternative fruits or dropped out of the segment altogether.

Of those consumers switching their fruit selections, the most popular three fruits to replace bananas were grapes, apples and pears, securing 31%, 20% and 11% respectively of consumers switching from bananas to alternative fruits.

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Banana industry expected to regain full strength by Xmas

Stored under News on July 27, 2006

Bananas from trees which escaped the full force of cyclone Larry in north Queensland earlier this year will begin arriving on supermarket shelves as early as September.

The price of the fruit has skyrocketed with most of the crop wiped out during the cyclone.

Craig Allen from the Banana Industry Promotions Company expects the industry to be back to full strength by Christmas.

"The response to the news has been great because banana ticket prices have been at absolute record levels," Mr Allen said.

"You know retailers have had to pay $120 to $150 so that's why we've seen the retail tickets at $14.99 and $15.99 in some capitals."


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For an alternative to ketchup, try Filipino banana sauce

Stored under News on July 24, 2006

Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

Occasionally, you spot a product in the grocery aisle that is so intriguing you feel compelled to buy it on the spot. This happened recently to our food editor, Peggy Grodinsky, who spied a bottle of Jufran Banana Sauce ($3) on the shelf at Kroger. After some investigation, we learned that it's a Filipino condiment similar to ketchup -- but made from the bananas prevalent in the region, instead of tomatoes. A little sweeter than its American counterpart, it's used as a dipping sauce for egg rolls -- and we think it wouldn't hurt a burger, either.


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22-ton banana spill closes Route 119

Stored under News on July 19, 2006

Motorists may have been driven bananas over the years by Route 119, but perhaps none more than John Q. Jones.

Jones, 52, of Garland, Texas, was driving a tractor-trailer Monday when it overturned and spilled its 22-ton load of bananas.

The accident occurred about 7:30 p.m. just south of Musser's Nursery in Rayne Township, Indiana County, according to state police at Indiana. As Jones drove his 2005 Freightliner tractor-trailer north, he failed to negotiate a left curve, according to police. The rig overturned, ejecting Jones from the cab and the bananas from the trailer as it rolled down an embankment.

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Vulnerable Chiquita braces for Hart attack

Stored under News on July 17, 2006

MOTHER Nature might not be the only thing banana producer Chiquita Brands South Pacific has to contend with this year.

Less than four months after Cyclone Larry devastated its banana plantations and forced Chiquita to issue its third profit downgrade, speculation is mounting that Kiwi billionaire Graeme Hart could be at least one of several parties interested in launching a takeover of the troubled company.

Yesterday Victorian food company Select Harvests admitted it had shown interest in Chiquita less than a year ago and refused to rule out taking another look, although market speculation deems the Hart-controlled Burns Philp or private equity firms as the most likely candidates.

Chiquita's share price soared almost 18 per cent, or 9.5c, over just three days to close at 63c on Friday as trading volumes last week accounted for almost half of the Chiquita shares which have changed hands over the past three months. The stock closed down 2c at 61c yesterday.

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Japan firm expands banana plantation investment by P1 B

Stored under News on July 10, 2006

Japanese firm Sumitomo Fruits Corp. (Sumifru), a subsidiary of the Sumitomo Corp. of Japan, announced yesterday a P1-billion expansion project for its banana plantation business in Mindanao.

President Arroyo welcomed the company’s expansion move, which was announced by Sumifru president Paul Cuyegkeng during a courtesy call at Malacañang.

Cuyegkeng said Sumifru will undertake a major expansion of its banana plantation, bringing to P6.5 billion its total investment in the banana plantation since December 2004.

The Philippines is among the major exporters of bananas and fruits to Japan, Korea, New Zealand, the Middle East, Hong Kong and China.

Sumifru has been developing 4,000 hectares of land in T’boli, Calinan, Toril and North Cotabato for its banana plantation project.

"In December 2004, we promised the President that we were going to expand our operations. At that time, we promised that we were going to plant 4,000 hectares and spend P800 million to develop the infrastructure to support it," Cuyegkeng said.

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Banana Split Topping Lands Man In Jail

Stored under News on June 28, 2006

HOUSTON -- An unusual topping on a banana split sent a man to jail, according to

Officials with the Richmond Police Department said Oscar Martinez, 41, was pulled over for a traffic violation on F.M. 1640 at about 10 p.m. Sunday.

The officer ran Martinez's name through his computer and found that his license was suspended and he was wanted on an outstanding warrant.

As the officer was arresting him, Martinez told him that he wished he had time to eat the banana split he just purchased.

The officer took a close look at the melting dessert and discovered two rocks of crack cocaine on top.

Officials said Martinez was charged with driving with a suspended license and possession of a controlled substance.


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Chiquita still struggling in European banana market

Stored under News on June 23, 2006

North America was a bright spot for Chiquita Brands International in April and May, while regulatory changes impacted its European market.

The Cincinnati-based produce company released April-May price and volume information for its core markets Tuesday.

In the European Union, its biggest market, average banana prices declined 10 percent (13 percent in U.S. currency) compared with the same period last year, while volume was down 2 percent. Chiquita said regulatory changes allowing new competitors into the market contributed to the decline, as well as a tariff rate of 176 euros ($221) per metric ton of Latin American bananas, more than double the previous rate. Volume decrease is due to the sale of more premium-grade bananas and fewer of the lower-margin, second-label fruit, the company said in a news release.

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Banana imports to ease shortage

Stored under News on June 23, 2006

AUSTRALIANS could be eating imported bananas within months under a proposal to make them available in selected fruit shops and supermarkets.

The plan, if adopted, will come too late to offer immediate relief to consumers, who have been paying up to $15/kg since Cyclone Larry wiped out most of the country's crop in northern Queensland in March. Local banana prices are expected to fall by the end of the year as plantations recover.

Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran rejected calls earlier this year to fast-track imports, which are being pushed by the Philippines Government. But the Government's quarantine assessment and policy advice body Biosecurity Australia will shortly ask for submissions on a draft plan to import bananas.

The plan will be considered by a panel of scientists and Biosecurity Australia quarantine director Joanna Hewitt, in a process that is likely to take six months to a year.

While retailers contacted yesterday declined to back the call for imports for fear of upsetting local growers, many are frustrated at the lack of alternative supplies to ease the shortage.

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New strain of fungus may hurt Belize banana prospects

Stored under News on June 2, 2006

A new strain of fungus tied to the dreaded Panama Disease has been decimating Cavendish banana plantations in Asia- Indonesia, Taiwan and the southern provinces of China and Malaysia.

The new variant, known as TR 4, has not reached the main exporting countries in Africa or Latin America.

However, the disease is spreading quickly and experts believe it is only a matter of time before it reaches the Western Hemisphere.

Like the other banana producing countries, Belize produces Cavendish bananas, which were believed to be resistant to the Panama Disease.Recent developments in Asia have shown this is not so.

During the 1950s Europeans ate a different banana, the Gros Michel. But the Panama disease wiped out the Gros Michel plantations all over the world and the Cavendish banana took its place.

Although the Cavendish is now under attack and could disappear, experts have a bunch of alternative bananas they can introduce.

They may not have the same text and texture, but they will be very good bananas.


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Bananas face extinction

Stored under News on May 31, 2006

Bananas, the globe's most popular fruit and the fourth most important food crop overall, could become extinct if new hybrids resistant to disease are not introduced in the very near future.

This is the stark warning to come from the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation, which stressed that the problem lies in the fact that virtually all international trade in bananas is dependent on just one variety “Cavendish“ and that modern cultivars have to be bred by cuttings.

Moves are now being made to develop a gene pool of wild varieties, particularly those which originate in India, the world's biggest producer of bananas accounting for over 20% of the world harvest.

Meanwhile, banana production in Latin America is under threat from Tropical Panama Disease Race 4. This fungus has already wiped out the Cavendish variety in Asia and had serious repercussions on the economies of Indonesia, Taiwan, Malaysia and northern Australia.

Given this background scientists are now looking at the development of new varieties by genetic engineering. This is significant since this type of banana is the most popular in both the United States and in various countries in Europe.

The sector as a whole is already facing problems with Black Sigatoka, which has had a knock on effect on both production and exports.

In spite of this, the region as a whole is facing a boom in farm exports up by over 20% in 2005 alone. Much of this is due to exploding demand from India and China.

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Bananas going bonkers at some local convenience stores

Stored under News on May 24, 2006

The bananas sell for 69 cents a piece, right up there next to the lighters, the chocolate-covered cherries and countless candy bars at the Valero gas station on San Miguel Canyon Road.

You can pick up a few while you're filling your tank, getting your cup of coffee in the morning or even buying disposable razors.

Bananas are making a killing in somewhat of a surreal scene inside this gas station turned convenience store/de facto produce stand.

"At first people laughed," said Daryl Chang, the store's manager. "Now all the bananas are gone, and I keep having to order more."

Since Chang began selling the Chiquita bananas a month ago, customers have been peeling through them at a rapid rate, buying as many as 44 a week.

And the potassium keeps piling up along with the bottom lines of the seller, the packer, the distributor and the grower.

It's just the very beginning of a campaign launched last month by Chiquita International Brand Inc. to sell individual bananas at 3,000 convenient stores across the country, tapping into a market where the sight of a fruit isn't exactly commonplace.

"Sometimes people just don't have the time to go to the grocery store in the middle of the day, so we're bringing the bananas to them," says Mike Mitchell, spokesman for Chiquita in Cincinnati. "People have told us through our research that they would buy more bananas if they were more readily available, and we're doing just that: trying to make them more available."

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$1.2m for banana paper has appeal

Stored under News on May 18, 2006

PAPYRUS Australia has been awarded a $1.2 million grant to commercialise its paper-making technology.

The money, from a Federal Government Commercial Ready grant, would be used to build a demonstration plant in Queensland.

The Adelaide-based company expects the plant, able to produce 20,000 tonnes of paper per year from banana ply, would be ready by May next year.

The company plans to sell the paper-making technology, rather than produce the paper commercially.

Papyrus managing director Ramy Azer would not reveal how much a 20,000 tonne plant would cost, but said with paper costing about $1000 a tonne to buy, but only about $150 per tonne to produce with the Papyrus technology, investors would be looking at a good return on investment.

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India: World's No.1 banana grower?

Stored under News on May 8, 2006

More than three millenniums after King Alexander introduced banana to the world after having it in India, the United Nations has voiced concern at the shrinking number of wild bananas in their original home.

The depletion of wild bananas is leading to loss of gene sources needed to combat pests and disease in the fruit, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation said on Wednesday.

FAO has called for a systematic exploration of the wild bananas' remaining forest habitats in India's remotest regions and the jungles of Southeast Asia to catalogue surviving species as well as conservation efforts to offset loss of the species' natural habitat and research on expanding the use of wild bananas in breeding programs.

India is the world's largest banana grower, with an annual production of 16.8 million tonnes, or over 20 percent of total world output of 72.6 million tonnes in 2005 of the world's most exported fruit and fourth most important food commodity after rice, wheat and maize in terms of production value.

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Yes, we have hardly any bananas

Stored under News on May 5, 2006

THE price of a wholesale box of bananas has hit the $100 mark in Melbourne, with supply falling drastically after cyclone Larry tore through Australia's largest banana producing area in north Queensland last month.

A 13-kilogram box of high quality, large bananas cost upwards of $100 at the Melbourne Wholesale Markets in West Melbourne yesterday. Mary Stewart, group manager at the Melbourne Market Authority, yesterday said the price of bananas had been between $22 and $28 a box before the cyclone struck.

Australian Banana Growers' Council chief executive Tony Heidrich yesterday said that the average quantity of bananas coming on to the market each week had plummeted from 400,000 to 40,000 cartons, and it was difficult to predict how high prices would soar.

via TheAge

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Coney banana boat rides fail to a-peel

Stored under News on May 1, 2006

A plan to bring banana boat rides to Coney Island has been sunk - at least for now.

Parks Department officials are scratching their heads after their proposal to bring the well-known rides - popular in the Caribbean - to the Brooklyn Boardwalk went nowhere.

A banana boat ride is riding in a yellow raft-shaped banana pulled by a speedboat.

The city began soliciting bids for a "beach adventure concession" that also would include parasailing and other beach activities in November.

But the deadline for submissions passed at the end of last month without a nibble.

"That really surprised me," said said Deputy Parks Commissioner Liam Kavanagh. "Running a banana boat in Coney Island, you could make a lot of money."

The proposal also suggested rock-climbing walls, trampolines and a trapeze course on the beach in front of KeySpan Park.

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Banana growers say they'll see it through

Stored under News on April 19, 2006

INNISFAIL, on Queensland's north coast, is the perfect place to grow bananas. Its tropical weather and deep, fertile, well-watered soils have brought banana growers to its sheltered valleys.

Over the past decade the banana industry has become so concentrated in the region that when Cyclone Larry hit on March 20 it wiped out over 80 per cent of the country's banana supply.

Evan Dodds farms with his brother Geoff and parents Margaret and Bruce at Innisfail.

His parents grew sugarcane until his father decided nine years ago that there was a better future in bananas. Since then Evan, a fitter and turner, and Geoff, a diesel fitter in the mines, have come back, to work on the farm.

"My parents would have just sold the farm a few years back," Evan says. "They got quite a good offer on the farm, but they decided not to, that is was the future for their sons.

"And we said, 'OK we are prepared to commit ourselves to it'."

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Chiquita raises banana prices in response to higher tariffs

Stored under News on March 24, 2006

The company this week announced that its banana prices in North America rose by 1 percent during the first two months of the year, compared to prices in January and February of 2005.

Average prices in the European Union, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland also rose 5 percent on a local currency basis.

According to the company, the higher prices have resulted from "a strategic shift in sales to more premium Chiquita-label fruit, which sells at significantly higher prices than the company's second-label fruit, in addition to the impact of higher tariffs and other industry costs."

Indeed, in February 2005 pricing in North America included surcharges of $1 per box implemented to offset flooding in Panama and Costa Rica a year ago. However, these price hikes were only in place for several months.

In contrast, the 2006 surcharge is expected to "continue indefinitely" , with quarterly adjustments designed to reflect changes in the market price of fuel and related products.

The company also noted that it had renewed certain fixed-price contracts at higher prices, which either went into effect in February 2006 or are due to go into effect over the next few weeks.

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Disaster drives big price surge

Stored under News on March 20, 2006

This just in!

CYCLONE Larry has destroyed up to 95 per cent of the country's $350 million banana crop after tearing through the key growing regions of the Tully Valley and Innisfail.

Even before making landfall in north Queensland yesterday morning, Larry's impact was being felt in Sydney's main fruit market at Flemington, where the price of bananas doubled.

"You couldn't pinpoint a more precise position for a cyclone to hit Australia's banana production," said the chief executive of the Australian Banana Growers Council, Tony Heidrich. "It's pretty much a total wipe-out."

Up to 500 growers have been affected across the region, and it is estimated it could take nine months for production to resume.

"I don't think there's much left standing," said Pat Arcella, who owns two farms in the area and a wholesale business in Sydney.

After prices doubled overnight, Mr Arcella said it was likely they would hover at about $6 a kilogram for some time.

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Chiquita posts good results, but faces challenges ahead

Stored under News on February 24, 2006

Chiquita has said that 2005 was a "terrific" year for the company, despite a $19m net loss in its fourth quarter resulting largely from the flooding of 1,600 hectares of the company's banana farms in Honduras.

The banana producer this week announced $3.9bn in net sales for the financial year ended December 31 2005, a 27 percent increase from last year's $3.1bn.

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Frequency of banana thefts is increasing

Stored under News on February 24, 2006

Kailua police are looking into a flurry of banana thefts within the last several weeks at Windward Oahu farms.

Though agricultural thefts happen often, investigators said thefts at banana farms in particular have escalated from two to three incidents a month to two to three a week so far this month.

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Desperate dad in banana drama

Stored under News on February 16, 2006

The father of a deaf taekwondo athlete who is expected to attend the 2008 Paralympic Games was found stealing a large number of bananas, reportedly in order to finance his son's attendance at a taekwondo contest in Hong Kong.

"Police on Monday evening arrested a man surnamed Yan, 55, who had been driving a pick-up truck loaded with more than 100kg of bananas around a banana farm in the county," Lin Hsin-chuan, a Pingtung police official, said yesterday. "Because Yan is not the owner of the farm, he admitted to the police that he had stolen the bananas."

Lin said the bananas were worth around NT$2,200.

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Falling banana kills woman

Stored under News on February 10, 2006

Slovenian migrant Ivanka Perko died in hospital last week in bizarre circumstances - she suffered complications after she dropped a banana on her leg.

Comical to the end, the 73-year-old old quipped to friends and family while on her deathbed: "I can't believe after all this time it was a bloody banana that killed me."

A family friend told The Saturday Daily Telegraph yesterday that Ms Perko - who was treasured by her Blue Mountains community - had been ill for several months with a condition that made her skin delicate and fine.

"She had tried to open a banana and dropped it," the friend said. "The pointy end scraped down her leg and she died from complications."

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'Banana' looks to peel away opposition to club

Stored under News on February 9, 2006

Plans to peel back the shutters at the now closed Golden Banana nude dancing club took a slippery step forward when a cadre of businessmen this week handed the city of Peabody plans to reopen the establishment -- over the objections of at least one city councilor.

"It's never a good thing for the Banana to reopen," said City Councilor David Gamache. "Back in the late '70s there were numerous saunas and strip clubs up and down Route 1 and the city managed to get it down to two."

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Udhayam banana variety: hope for farmers

Stored under News on February 2, 2006

RESEARCHERS AT the National Research Centre for Banana (NRCB), Tiruchi, Tamil Nadu have developed a new hybrid plantain variety named Udhayam.

The variety is found to be tolerant to low temperatures and can be grown in a wide variety of soils, according to the researchers.

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Banana farmer ups productivity with invention

Stored under News on January 31, 2006

A Tully inventor is poised to boost banana production and profits across Queensland.

A new product, which performs a protective function, separating banana hands as they grow and preventing the fruit from blemishing during the growing and harvesting phases, has been backed for development and manufacture by the Queensland State Government.

Marc Jackson, a banana farmer of 15 years, began developing the Clip Slip after studying international banana industry practices in 2001.

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St. Lucia's Banana Exports Hit Record Low

Stored under News on January 30, 2006

Castries, St. Lucia (AP) - Exports of bananas from this eastern Caribbean island fell to a record low in 2005 as more farmers left the industry because of increased competition and the region's looming loss of preferential treatment in the key European market, officials said Friday.

St. Lucia exported 30,970 tons (28,096 metric tons) of the fruit, a 28 percent decline from 2005, according to the Windward Islands Banana Development and Exporting Company.

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ST. LUCIA: Banana officials fear virus

Stored under News on January 25, 2006

ST LUCIA banana authorities say they are taking measures to prevent the deadly Black Sigatoka diseases from affecting the banana industry on the island.

Banana officials say the Black Sigatoka, a wind-blown virus, has been identified in Grenada. Originally believed to be restricted to Latin America, the disease has shown up in Puerto Rico and in 2004 made its appearance in Trinidad and Tobago.

"This means that the disease is on its way up from Trinidad into Grenada and no sooner it will be headed to the rest of the Windward Islands," said Hilary La Force, the managing director of the Banana Emergency Recovery Unit (BERU).

Read More via Jamaica Gleaner

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$20 Bill Oddity Fetches $25,300

Stored under News on January 16, 2006

Banana Bill
It all began on EBay where a man sold a flawed 1996 $20 bill in 2003. The bill has an ingrained Del Monte fruit sticker and has even been authenticated. This is no fake printing. The man initially purchased the bill on EBay for $10,100 and now, 3 years later, sold it for a staggering $25,300 at an Orlando auction. How the symbol began embedded into the bill has yet to be determined.

via North Country Gazette

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Cavendish banana to be wiped out soon?

Stored under News on December 29, 2005

Cavendish Banana
Enjoyed by many because of its taste, color and durability, the Cavendish banana's days may be numbered. This type of banana is highly susceptible to two diseases that are destroying many banana plantations throughout Southeast Asia and is threatening crops in other parts as well.

Head banana breeder, Juan Fernando Aguilar, is looking for a replacement banana. The Honduran Foundation for Agricultural Investigation, which has more than 8,000 banana hybrids in its fields, continues to house one of the most active banana-breeding programs in the world.

No fear though, Aguilar is confident that within 10 years, there will be a banana that succeeds the Cavendish. He believes that with cross-pollination, a new breed can be formed that will be able to keep the market going. After all, Americans eat over $4 billion work of Cavendish bananas per year. It is crucial for these plantations businesses.

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