The Banana (Trade) Wars

Since the 1800s, bananas, coffee and cane sugar have been part of a worldwide system of production, shipping, selling and consumption. But the banana trade was historically dived between two major powers: Latin American bananas were the domain of large American companies, while Caribbean bananas were regulated by European trade agreements.

The so-called Dollar-bananas have been regulated by so-called free market conditions shaped by the powers of these corporations, while African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) bananas were favoured by European consumers because these were former Dutch, British, French and Belgian colonies.

The conflict the between the ACP and dollar banana regimes – the so-called banana wars – illuminates the historical tensions between these two totally different systems. It also highlights the two different styles of colonialism: European states used direct rule, while the United States and the American companies used indirect rule. If a Latin American state would not readily comply with the wishes of the likes of United Fruit, an American military intervention was not unlikely to happen.

So, while the large companies are still favoured by the American government, they continue to lose their power. United Fruit Company ultimately became Chiquita, went bankrupt in 2002 and re-emerged as Chiquita Brands. Dole went into private ownership again in August 2013 and Del Monte has been sold and split up several times. The part that sells bananas in now called Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc.

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