Indonesia Anonymus

We are a group of Indonesians, ranting about our beloved country. This blog is a result of many people grumbling about many things in many ways.
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Our blog in Bahasa Indonesia (but rarely updated) can be found here.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Going Bananas

One colleague told us that bananas sold at a supermarket near her home are all imported. She could not even find the typical Indonesia's 'pisang ambon' anymore.
"My kids love pisang ambon and I just can't find them anymore... Whatever happen to them?"

We certainly don't have a problem growing them. One other colleague once complained how banana trees grew so quickly in his backyard. He enjoys the fruit (so do his neighbors, because the trees produce more than he and his family can handle), but "it's growing so fast, invading my garden. If I let it the whole backyard will just be banana trees, and that ain't pretty... !"

A silly example, but shows that growing bananas is not exactly rocket science. So why do we need to import?

Here's more fact to tickle your brain:
the bananas imported to this country is the cavendish type. If you notice, this type is not exactly tasty. It also goes bad really fast. Bananas cannot survive more than two weeks after they are cut off the tree [1]. Yes, that's with refrigeration. Two weeks. So this fruit will have to travel all the way from say Guatemala to our supermarket in within that timeframe.

And yet they are sold cheaply at the supermarkets while Indonesian bananas are non existent.


Let's go back to the 'growing bananas is not rocket science'.
In your backyard, yes. But to produce them for mass market? That's a different story.

The reason why the bananas imported are all cavendish, is because that's all there is. There are more than 1000 varieties of bananas, but "by sticking to this single variety, the banana industry ensures that all the bananas in a shipment ripen at the same rate, creating huge economies of scale.

And the bananas can reach the market real quickly by clearing rainforest in Latin America, building railroads and communication networks and inventing refrigeration techniques to control ripening [1]".

Still wondering why it is easier to find a Chiquita?


[1] International Herald Tribune


Blogger Geordie E. said...

I just had some delicious bananas here in San Francisco. They were not the typical large yellow and bland bananas... these were smaller and a dark red.

Sadly, the bananas here in the State are the Chiquita variety. Anything else is extremely rare.

12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't worry. Stick to the traditional Pisang Ambon. Eventually the market will get fed up with Chiquitas, and start to look back to the old pisang Ambon. With smart marketing (like associating Pisang Ambon with old tradition, healthy natural product, etc), we can hit back with double profit ;)

But wait.... while we're at it btw, there is a huge global market for natural products. Indonesia can become a major supplier, if we can just find a clever packaging and shiping solution. So, let's all stick to the cheap Chiquitas for our own consumption, and off load our exotic pisang ambons to US & european markets!

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an interesting subject!! And what a pity that it's true.. One thing I have always look forward to whenever I visit Indonesia is the breadth of fruits available.. I'm done with just the three fruits commonly offered in my previous country of residence (apples, bananas, grapes). Truly sad that we only get to experience 1/1000 banana varieties out there.

Great blog, by the way :)

10:32 AM  
Blogger Akhyari said... sad to read your post. My fren from UK once told me that indonesia banana(s) tasted the best among all, even if compared to those from latin america.
Imagine, one family grow one single banana tree, so there will be 234 million banana trees across the archipelago..haha.If we let them grow further, within the next 5 years, probably there will be ONE BILLION banana trees in Indonesia.
Majulah Indonesiaku. !

4:29 PM  
Blogger Jakartass said...

I too never buy those awful Cavendish bananas, relying on the varieties of bananas sold by the tukang sayur who pass by our house in the morning.

They buy their produce from the various night markets in town which enable the distribution of locally grown fresh foods.

As for favourites. I prefer pisang emas, the short and sweet ones.

Incidentally, why are durians imported from Thailand?

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why only cavendish that ripes uniformly? because breeding other races of banana in Indonesia is not supported sufficiently.

10:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been reading your old archives and love every post! Your writing is simple, concise, understandable yet interesting. You have caught my attention and I will check your site from time to time!


1:49 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

frankly, despite living in this country for a while, i still have a problem with telling one kind of banana from the other. I only know that there are longer ones and there are shorter ones.

interesting post.

PS: you guys need to post more often.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good article, thanks

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another example of how stupid we "smart" Indonesians could be. When people are running away to countries such as Australia, UK and US to find better jobs and start better lives, i still think Indonesia is where all the money is - if only we know where to find them. And im Chinese !!!

12:08 PM  

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