Improved handling in banana supply chains (BA10016)
This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.
What was it all about?
Damage to bananas during packing, transport and distribution was a major issue for the banana industry. Not only did damage reduce the quality and value of fruit available to consumers, it increased costs within supply chains and could result in total loss. This pilot project aimed to find out;
- How much of a problem was damage to bananas at retail
- Does damage to bananas reduce consumers willingness to purchase the fruit
- What factors affect damage to bananas, and where does injury occur within supply chains
The initial study of retail quality of bananas found that, although most were graded as good to excellent quality, many (approximately 50 per cent) had noticeable rubs, marks, bruises or neck injury. Damage severity seemed to vary between types of packaging and specific retailers. In general, the best quality fruit sold for the highest prices.
The willingness of consumers to pay more for quality was tested in the next stage of the project. A simulated “auction” was held, in which consumers were invited to bid to exchange bruised, marked or injured bananas for ‘perfect’ fruit. While some devalued fruit on appearance alone, most were willing to pay extra to exchange bruised for undamaged bananas.
A number of supply chains were studied to determine where damage occurred and why. Fruit was evaluated after harvest, following ripening at the distribution centre (DC), then finally after delivery to retail stores.
Neck injury mainly occurred between the farm and the DC. Bruises and skin marks could occur anywhere on the supply chain, but increased markedly between the DC and the retail store. The top layer of fruit inside each carton was most likely to have neck injury, especially if it was on the middle or bottom layers of the pallet. Conversely, fruit in top layers of pallets were more likely to have rub marks and scuffing. Temperatures were monitored, and were found to fall dangerously low during distribution to retail stores, with some fruit below 7°C when delivered. Different cartons liners and carton types were also tested, with some positive results.
The results confirmed that damage was a significant problem for members of the banana industry and also banana eating consumers. Strategies to minimise damage may have included increasing carton strength and height, packing fruit into bags instead of standard liners and improved stabilisation of pallets. A larger project could examine other factors affecting damage levels and methods of reducing these issues.
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This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the financial support of Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, and the banana industry.
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