Bananas are the 4th most important staple food in the world and the 5th most traded agricultural commodity (after cereals, sugar, coffee and cocoa). Almost 100 million metric tonnes of bananas are consumed every year , of which 15 million are exported. The industry generates billions of dollars, yet just five corporations—Dole, Del Monte, Chiquita, Fyffes and Noboa—control 85 per cent of the world banana market.
Many countries, such as Brazil and India, produce large amounts of bananas that are mostly consumed locally. There are other regions however, such as Central America and the Caribbean — often referred to as "banana republics," that depend heavily on banana exports.
While trade can be a good thing for many countries, these relationships have been bred from exploitive colonial relationships. According to Peter Chapman, author of Jungle Capitalists (Canongate Books, 2007), the multinational corporation United Fruit Company (now declined and surviving in part as Chiquita) was often accused of bribing Latin American government officials in exchange for preferential treatment. It was also accused of exploiting workers, creating an abusive monopoly, and encouraging or supporting US coups against smaller nations in order to instate dictatorships. The company is considered to have played a major role for decades in the development of these exploitive relationships.