Banana Plant: Processing From Tree To Box

Describes how bananas plants are harvested in Central America and processed for shipping.

Central America is well known for its tropical produce. One item, the banana, is an especially important crop here both for its export value as well as for its local use as a dietary staple. Different types of bananas are grown on Central America. They include the following: the common yellow banana, popular all over the world; the small, sweeter dark brown/maroon banana, which can be eaten directly or used for cooking; and the plantain, which is used exclusively for cooking purposes. Although bananas are grown in various regions throughout Central America, they flourish best when grown in hot and humid environments.

Typically, bananas are grown on larger plantations and are harvested at different times during their growth cycle depending on whether they will be exported or used domestically. If the bananas will be exported, they are picked when they are very green. This enables them to ripen en route to a customer so that the produce you purchase in a store is ready for immediate, or almost immediate, consumption.

When bananas are ready to be picked at a plantation, a worker goes into the field to a tree to be harvested and cuts a banana stalk from the tree using a machete. An average stalk contains approximately 20-25 bananas. As stalks are cut, they are moved to a vehicle where they are placed for transport to a banana processing plant. Banana processing plants can be very elaborate or very simple. The simplest of which is merely an open-air structure that has a roof under which workers, equipment, and produce interact. At this type of plant, each stalk is removed from the vehicle used to transport it and hung-up on a rope or cable that is mounted on a pulley system placed above workers heads. Each stalk is then transported on this pulley system to an area beneath which lies a tub filled with flowing water that contains a diluted chemical solution used to eliminate bugs from the produce. Standing along side the tub are workers. Their job is to cut banana sections from the stalk allowing the bananas to fall into the solution. Because the water continues to flow as the bananas drop into it, the bananas are carried forward towards another group of workers who separate good bananas from rotten ones by removing the bad ones from the batch.

Once separation has occurred, other workers remove the good bananas from the solution by hand and place them on a table. The bananas are then dried with the assistance of a good breeze or some portable fans. When the bananas have dried fully, they are placed into cardboard boxes, each of which can hold up to 40 lbs. of bananas. When the bananas have been boxed, they are ready for shipment. The bananas go to distribution centers for export or local use or, they are shipped to different plants for further processing.

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