Close your eyes and imagine a tropical landscape blessed with year-round sunshine, lush rainforests and sandy beaches. Well, if you’re one of the millions of Brits who tucked into a banana today, then you’re closer
to paradise than you might think.
The majority of Tesco’s bananas are grown in Costa Rica in Central America. It’s the third largest exporter of bananas in the world and has the perfect climate for growing the fruit. Tesco’s banana plantations ar overseen by Tesco technical manager for tropical fruit, Daniel Pacheco. As an experienced banana grower of more than 10 years and a Costa Rican native, Daniel has much expertise. ‘Bananas are very important to the economy, employing thousands of people from the local communities,’ explains Daniel.
Two years ago, Tesco transferred the bulk of its banana sourcing to Central and South America and now has sites in Costa Rica, Equador and Colombia. It also sources from Africa.
Growers are given specialist training, which covers everything from the best farming techniques to food hygiene. Daniel says, ‘We are lucky enough to work with good suppliers. They have an exceptionally loyal workforce that are really essential to the whole operation.’
Safety is paramount on the farms. ‘Workers are taught how to safely cultivate, protect and harvest the bananas,’ explains Daniel.
The banana ‘tree’ is in fact a herbaceous plant and caring for it requires a hands-on approach. It takes around nine months to produce its fruit and a further three months for it to be ready for picking. During this time the growers are out pruning and hoeing to ensure a good harvest. The process also involves covering the plants with nets (known as bagging), which helps them to grow and protects against pests.
Bananas are picked when green and go to pack houses to be trimmed and prepared for shipping. This requires
a skilled hand with an expert touch, in order to deliver the bananas in the best condition possible. Any debris from the plant is either sold in local markets or turned into compost and returned to the land as fertiliser – nothing is wasted.
When the bananas reach Britain, they are transferred straight from temperature-controlled containers on the ships to special ripening rooms to be checked for quality and colour, before being distributed to stores all over the country. This careful field-to-store operation helps to guarantee a traceable product that’s affordable, nutritious and tasty, too. No wonder we love ’em.
As featured in the Real Food Magazine April/May 2013.