A Banana of a Journey

How can I un-taste what my tongue has sampled … and enjoyed?

A green metal basket swings back and forth – ship to shore – loaded with boxes that a forklift takes delivery of to shuffle onto a refrigerated truck emblazoned with advertising. The ‘O’ in the wording is a sparkling sun icon but the rays don’t reach far.

A long white cloud sulks within the harbour, it can’t make up its mind what to do. On the pier a bunch of men wearing bright yellow hazard vests shiver. They look for all the world like giant versions of the consignment they are receiving.

It’s hard to believe that these bananas are only part way to their destination. Still to come is: the supermarket warehouse; a packer’s hands; brightly lit shelves; a shopping trolley, check-out conveyer belt, carry bag, fruit bowl, a lunchbox. And finally the warm mouth of a New Zealander wanting a taste of the tropics on a cold winter’s day. 

This cargo reefer, arrived in Lyttelton on 6 July at 21:54 from Auckland. Next it is bound for the high seas; having been in New Zealand waters for just two days. Port of origin for this trip was Davao, Phillipines – 7,354Km away. The ship is registered in the Bahamas. (Read again – I did not say Bananas!)

One of the top five exporters of bananas in the world is the Philippines, with some 2.85 million metric tonnes exported in 2017. * If I wanted to purchase them direct from the grower, Google maps informs me it would take 1 day and 21 hours to fly between Christchurch and Davao – using Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Philippine Airlines. Astonishing is not the fact that it took me 20 seconds to find that information but that Google is so out of kilter with current times. I can’t get a flight anywhere at the moment!

Shipping has suddenly become quicker … and safer … than air travel.  

Bananas grow best in hot, humid conditions. My parents are surrounded by them in South Africa. Comically there, the local vervet monkeys prefer to sneak in and take them off the shelf in Mum and Dad’s kitchen rather than picking fresh from the plants in the valley! I think they must prefer a convenient life too.

This elongated fruit is a complete meal containing fibre, potassium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Magnesium, copper, manganese, carbohydrates, some protein and a little fat …

… healthy fuel to power us through our hectic lives.

Bananas are one of the most popular fruits in New Zealand. In fact, Kiwis eat more bananas per capita than anywhere else, getting through 18kg per person, per year, according to Statistics NZ.

At what price? 

Cheap for me – a few coins from my purse.

Expensive for the planet – tons of gasoline to transport them here. 

And now the cloud descends on me. How much am I willing to give up to shop local? To save food miles?

How can I un-taste what my tongue has sampled … and enjoyed?

There’s no easy swap for the convenience, versatility and environmentally friendly packaging (skin) of a banana. Since I want to live more sustainably, I’ll be going on a long journey through my conscience about this fruit of the genus Musa. For now those thoughts are driving me ban…. , I mean nuts. 

* Philippine Statistics Authority

3 thoughts on “A Banana of a Journey

Add yours

  1. I love your humour. And how right you are – sustainability must include being prepared to give things up we like. Just how willing am I, really?


  2. Such a simple pleasure you would think, pity about the bigger picture! Trying to living sustainably makes me feel like I’m jumping through hoops sometimes, and sticking to local and seasonal produce is just one of the challenges, especially when the shelves are brimming over with stuff that’s definitely Not in season.


    1. I totally agree. All we can do is our best. Some weeks I’m better than others but when under stress in other areas of life it feels like a monumental effort. I have hope though that the combined weight of a whole group of us will eventually tip the balance so that manufacturers and retail outlets start doing more of the ‘work’ for us and the planet.

      Liked by 1 person

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