Why India is Lucky to be a Banana Republic

24 08 2008

When I buy my weekly requirement of fruits and vegetables at a relatively upmarket superstore in Hyderabad, I see there are atleast four to five varieties of apples – red, green and what have you. But  there are no bananas.


Occasionally, one does see speciality bananas from Kerala, which are nearly five times more expensive than the normal bananas. For bananas, I look out for a hand-cart vendor who sells only bananas. I see his customers are daily laborers, lower middle class families or servants of the rich and upper-middle class.  


It makes me conclude that apples are for the rich while bananas are for the poor. In a super market an apple costs approximately Rs 25. A banana costs Rs 1.50. For the price of one apple, one can buy a dozen bananas.


Why should apples be so expensive and banana be so inexpensive ? Is the apple nutritive contentwise superior to the banana ?


 My desktop research produced results conclusively in favor of bananas. 100g of a banana is equivalent to 95 kcal of energy whreas the corrresponding figure for the apple is  47 kcal. Bananas have more carbohydrate, protein and fat than apples. Apples scores over banana only on fiber content. On both Vitamin B6  and Vitamin C  count bananas are superior to apples. Besides, the banana is a proven source of instant energy.


 A manual laborer works hard physically, he needs more calories which he gets in a banana, whereas the  weight watching rich go for apples.


Bananas suffer  from one disadvantage though. Their shelf life is much shorter than  apples.


If nutritively,  the banana is  such a wonder fruit,  why are they priced so low?


I found one answer in the fruit statistics released by Indian horticulture database. In terms of supply, the banana is the number one fruit in India,  accounting for  32.9 % of total fruit production, whereas apple accounts for just 3.5 % . The yield/hectare of banana is 4 times more than the apple.Yield/hectare for apple is 7,538 kg  and banana is 30,631 kg. Other input costs being equal, an apple is four times more expensive to produce than a banana.


So it is just supply-side economics at work!


– G. Mohan




One response

26 08 2008
Venkat Subramaniam

Nature has a way of ensuring that things that are good for health are generally less expensive. Guavas are supposed to be superior to apple in all aspects of nutrition, yet is much cheaper than apple and more abundant.

The rich and the poor in India, almost tread parallel paths when it comes leading life where the twain never meet.

On the hygiene front, the rich may be much better off as compared to their not-so-well to do counterparts. However when it comes to nutrition, exercise and fitness; in many cases the less-moneyed families would score better than their richer fellowmen. The poor man’s food includes less expensive and highly nutritional items like spinach which are hardly found in the malls. The poor man’s lifestyle has walking and exercise built-in; while these need to be artificially induced in their richer brethren.

Coming back to the topic of bananas; ironically, banana, inspite of being a poor man’s fruit, got catapulted to great heights when Boris Becker used to have it in between matches. Otherwise it is found in the rich man’s plate as banana-split icecream (Baskin Robins)!!

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