Thursday, December 4, 2008

Koeppel Interview Part 7

Back in early October, I had the opportunity to interview Dan Koeppel, author of Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed Our World. This is the final installment of this series, but if you want to read the piece in its entirety, it is available in both the print, and online versions of the current Wheatsville Breeze.

Do you have anything you would like to say to consumers, like the owners of our cooperative about the fate of this fruit that changed the world?

I would like stay to the owners of the cooperative, is that, it is not your fault that you only about one banana. For a hundred years the definition of the word banana has been this banana that we eat called the Cavendish. But there are a thousand other amazing bananas out there. The banana supply chain has been has been constructed so that the only ban that we can get is this banana that we eat. This ban is threatened now, and it an opportunity for us to either lose bananas entirely, or to open ourselves up to this amazing world of bananas. I’m not even exaggerating when by saying that the Cavendish is the white bread of bananas. And in a co-op like yours, people know what white bread is, and it’s not so good.

Foodies, members of co-ops, and people who have the opportunity to control their food destiny a little bit more than the average consumer, you have the opportunity to save the banana for asking for more types of bananas. It’s not just a matter of going to your co-op produce managers, or co-op boards and saying find us more bananas. It’s a matter of actually learning about these other bananas your selves and going a little bit deeper than that. Figuring out where these bananas come form and trying to learn way to get them to the United States.

You’ll here from the banana companies that it’s impossible to get more kinds of bananas into the U.S., and you really do only see one kind. But this is an opportunity, really. This is really a chance. There is a business opportunity here. There is going to be a replacement banana and the question is, who’s gonna bring it. The banana is the most popular fruit in the United States. More bananas are sold than apples and oranges combined. The Cavendish banana is going to go away, we’re almost certain of that. It’s going to take ten, or twenty, or thirty years, but it's going to happen. Who’s gonna introduce those new bananas? Who’s gonna get rich from doing that. Who ever is going to do it going to have to find new ways to ship it, invent new technologies, new supply chains. They’re also going to have and opportunity to make those supply chains, more fair, more equitable more environmentally sound. It’s a big job, but somebody can do it.

Right now, the big banana companies don’t know that the job is ahead of them. They don’t know how to do it, they don’t want to do it, and they don’t understand that they need to do it. So what I would say to the members of Wheatsville Food Co-op and members of food co-op everywhere, and anybody who is out there, and is looking for a business opportunity, or who wants to help change world, well, millions of millions of dollars, and millions and millions of people, and millions and millions of opportunities are out there. The banana is waiting. It’s waiting for somebody to say, “Let’s take this, and let’s change it, and bring more bananas to the American public.” This is a chance.

Right now as the banana exists it doesn’t look all that good for the Cavendish. But it doesn’t look bad for the banana unless things stay the same. And like I said, the real opportunity is that Chiquita and Dole, right now, are pretty much walking around with blinders. That doesn’t mean that the rest of us can’t keep our eyes open, and can’t do anything.



TexasDeb said...

This whole situation is just sad. The brutality surrounding the banana industry is why I pretty much quit eating them years ago.

As our regional climate seems to be warming, maybe we should find a small group of people and start growing our own bananas here in Texas. Supposedly every plant yields two usable pups so your crop doubles every good year.

Anybody got some land we can use? I'll pitch in for at least a couple of banana trees...

Flapjacks said...

i've eaten backyard bananas in brazoria, so i know it's possible...

Folks who Follow this Blog