China is going bananas for bananas

Singapore: Chinese consumers are consuming more imported bananas than ever before as an increasingly health conscious middle class help propel the fruit's popularity.

Imports of bananas surged to a record 227,199 tonnes in May alone, according to China's general administration of customs. China imported 1.54 million tonnes of bananas in 2018, a 50 per cent surge from the year before, customs data shows.

A tray of freshly picked Chiquita bananas are readied for packing and export at a farm in Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas state, Mexico.Credit:AP

That helped lift total shipments of fruits and nuts to 720,000 tonnes, an almost eight-fold increase from the same period last year.

Restrained by limited farmland and a destructive banana fungus known as the Panama disease, China has been increasing its reliance on supplies from Southeast Asia and South America. Demand for bananas is being encouraged by rising incomes and the increasing popularity of diets in China, including for use in smoothies and as banana chips.

China overtook Japan as the biggest foreign market for bananas from the Philippines last year, according to Xinhua News Agency. The country procured more than two-thirds of exports from the Southeast Asian country in 2018 while also expanding supplies from other producers such as Mexico and Cambodia.

Chinese consumers are eating more bananas than ever before.Credit:AP

Fresh fruit prices were at a historical high in China last month, triggering concerns over accelerating inflation. Fruit and nut imports had surged to a record in April amid rising local prices.

But that momentum could subside in the northern summer as supplies increase, according to Lu Ting, chief China economist at Nomura Holdings in Hong Kong.


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