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Interesting op-ed piece in today’s New York Times by Dan Koeppel, author of “Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World.”

Koeppel writes that once people get used to $4 per gallon gasoline, the next big sticker shock may be as they start paying $1 per pond for bananas: “At that price, Americans may stop thinking of bananas as a cheap staple, and then a strategy that has served the big banana companies for more than a century — enabling them to turn an exotic, tropical fruit into an everyday favorite — will begin to unravel.

“The immediate reasons for the price increase are the rising cost of oil and reduced supply caused by floods in Ecuador, the world’s biggest banana exporter. But something larger is going on that will affect prices for years to come.

“That bananas have long been the cheapest fruit at the grocery store is astonishing. They’re grown thousands of miles away, they must be transported in cooled containers and even then they survive no more than two weeks after they’re cut off the tree. Apples, in contrast, are typically grown within a few hundred miles of the store and keep for months in a basket out in the garage. Yet apples traditionally have cost at least twice as much per pound as bananas.”

The price increase isn’t just related to transportation of a fruit that is, essentially, exotic in nature. There’s also a fungus that could disrupt the world’s supply of bananas. “The fungus is expected to reach Latin America in 5 to 10 years, maybe 20. The big banana companies have been slow to finance efforts to find either a cure for the fungus or a banana that resists it. Nor has enough been done to aid efforts to diversify the world’s banana crop by preserving little-known varieties of the fruit that grow in Africa and Asia.

“In recent years, American consumers have begun seeing the benefits — to health, to the economy and to the environment — of buying foods that are grown close to our homes. Getting used to life without bananas will take some adjustment. What other fruit can you slice onto your breakfast cereal?”

KC's View:
This is terrible news. Can’t imagine a morning without a banana.

But in its own way, it points up the stark reality that is facing suppliers, retailers and consumers – that old assumptions may be falling by the wayside in view of a transforming world economy, and we may have to get used to things being different in a wide variety of ways.