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Lecture 36 Horticulture, Politics, and World Affairs: Bananas and the Banana Republics Banana: A gigantic tropical herb consisting of a pseudostem made up of leaf sheaths with an inflorescence pushing through the sheaths Basically two types of fruit

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lecture 36 horticulture politics and world affairs bananas and the banana republics

Lecture 36 Horticulture, Politics, and World Affairs:Bananas and the Banana Republics

Banana: A gigantic tropical herb consisting of a pseudostem made up of leaf sheaths with an

inflorescence pushing through the sheaths

Basically two types of fruit

Banana: Consumed mostly as fresh fruit (AA, AAA)

Plantain: Cooking banana (AB, ABB, AAB)

Staple food in the tropics

Bananas now one of most popular and cheapest fruit imports

An amazing horticultural achievement

slide3

Suckering in banana

Banana as shade crop for nutmeg

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History of Banana

Cultivated in southeast Asia in antiquity

Seedless types selected

Known by reputation to Theophrastus

Introduced to Mediterranean region in 650

May have moved to Africa by Arab traders in first century or from India via southern Arabia and Ethiopia

Many cultivars in Uganda suggesting long history

Established early in New World

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History of Banana in Latin America

In last half of 19th century, Captain Lorenzo D. Baker and Minor C. Keith introduced the first bananas to Boston and the US Northeast between 1870 and 1889

Fruit an immediate success leading to

banana bonanza

American entrepreneurs sought to control both

banana production and trade

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A combination of sea captains, railroad builders, and adventurers formed the Boston Freight Company which became the United Fruit company (1899)Company became plantation and shipping monopoly

Developed horticultural and shipping techniques and system of plantation management

Their efforts made banana one of the first fresh foods to be internationally commercialized

Bananas of high quality now available the year around at moderate prices the world over

A significant horticultural achievement

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Bananas and Colonialism

United Fruit Company was aggressive in the unstable frontier of Central America

Industry unique because no other perishable produce brought such a long distance to market or available without regard to season

Industry based on the fact that fruit could be picked green and ripened off the plant

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However, company subject to severe, constant, and bitter criticism as “Industrial Colonialism” despite the fact that conditions on plantation probably better than in rural areas

Criticism based on

Monopoly exploitation

Political manipulation

Abuse of native labor

Disregard for human hardships

Preemptory management tactics

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It became obvious that a single large American company was to directly interfere with the political fortunes of a number of Central American countries, admittedly corrupt and greedyNot unlike Standard Oil in the Mideast

Persistent revolutions and coups were the result and the epithet of Banana Republics was applied to these countries, a shameful period of US-Latin American interactions

With the present World Trade Organization, the banana wars continue between European and American companies vying to divide and dominate the world market for banana

The banana wars continue