Bananas on the move

Bananas are a staple of every supermarket produce section. But climate change could throw the production of this favored fruit into disarray, according to a study in Ecological Economics. As current cultivation areas become too hot and dry, plantations may have to shift to other countries.

Latin America is by the far the world’s biggest exporter of bananas. Countries such as Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Colombia depend on this industry to support their economies.

To determine how climate change would affect banana production, the study authors searched for plantations in Central and South America using Google Earth. The researchers could pick out the banana farms “from the distinct coloration and patterning of the vegetation,” they write.

The team then determined which climate and geographic factors appeared most important for banana production. By the 2060s, the amount of land suitable for growing bananas will decrease in eight of the 11 analyzed countries, the authors predict. For example, Colombia is estimated to lose 62 percent of its cultivation area.

Other countries will fare better: Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru could see net increases in banana production. And current plantations could try to save their farms with irrigation. But as the authors point out, “[t]his management and adaptation to changing climate comes at a cost”. Roberta Kwok | 10 September 2013

Source: Machovina, B. and K.J. Feeley. 2013. Climate change driven shifts in the extent and location of areas suitable for export banana production. Ecological Economics doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2013.08.004.

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