Bananas [German version]

Table of contents

Product information
  Container transport
  Cargo securing

Risk factors and loss prevention:
Temperature Odor
Humidity/Moisture Contamination
Ventilation Mechanical influences
Biotic activity Toxicity / Hazards to health
Gases Shrinkage/Shortage
Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion Insect infestation / Diseases

Product information

Product name

German Bananen
English Bananas
French Bananes
Spanish Platanos/Bananas
Scientific Musa paradisiaca
CN/HS number * 0803 00 ff.

(* EU Combined Nomenclature/Harmonized System)

Product description

The banana is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. Botanically, it is a berry, belonging to the Musaceae family. Originally from tropical Asia, it has become widespread throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the earth.

The banana plant develops a false trunk (pseudostem) composed of leaf sheaths, from the center of which there emerges the apical flower and fruit spike.

Bananas, which are very popular because of their high carbohydrate content (mainly as glucose) and because of their aromatic taste, are harvested all year round.

The banana spike is known as a bunch. A bunch is composed of a series of hands. The individual fruits are called fingers. The following terminology is used:

1 banana = 1 finger
5 - 7 fingers = 1 cluster
15 - 20 fingers = 1 hand
8 - 14 hands = 1 bunch (= 200 bananas)

Bananas are divided into the following varieties:

Dessert bananas, which are suitable for eating fresh (fleshy, sweet, flavorsome)
Baby bananas, a miniature variety of dessert banana, which has recently enjoyed ever greater popularity
Cooking bananas, which have to be cooked before eating (mealy, starchy, plantains)
Fiber bananas, which are used for obtaining fibers (abaca, Manila hemp)

Dessert bananas are divided into the following principal varieties [6]:

Principal varieties Features Varieties
West-Indian or Jamaican banana (Musa sapientum L.) large, thick-skinned, relatively robust, fingers end in a point (= true dessert banana), somewhat mealy, firm, hands well closed Gros Michel
Canary or dwarf banana (Musa Cavendishii Lamb.) smaller than Jamaican bananas, thin-skinned, highly pressure sensitive, fingers are blunt-ended, sweeter than Jamaican bananas, scarcely mealy, soft, hands have splayed fingers Dwarf Cavendish, Lacatan, Poyo robusta

Bananas are harvested in the preclimacteric stage, while still green and hard (ripe for harvest). The fruit is then bright green and angular and the pulp (flesh of the fruit) is hard. The starch:sugar ratio is approx. 20:1, rendering the fruit inedible. The high tannic acid content gives it an astringent taste. Bananas reaching the climacteric (ripe to eat) are called "turners". The starch:sugar ratio of the fruit when ready to eat is approximately 1:20, producing fruit acids and the fine aroma.

Quality / Duration of storage

For transport, bananas must be sound, clean, whole, fresh, free of foreign odors and taste, free of abnormal moisture and undamaged. The color of the fruits should correspond to ripeness grade 1. In addition, they must be free from rot and mechanical damage. The hands must be treated against comb or stalk rot with fungicidal paste.

Bananas may be divided into seven different degrees of ripeness in accordance with their external color:

Drawings, bananas

Figure 1

Degree of ripeness Appearance of skin Characteristics
1 Green Color at time of loading
2 Green with faint hint of yellow Color at time of unloading
3 More green than yellow Incipient discoloration of skin indicates continuing ripening process
4 More yellow than green Correct degree of ripeness for ordering by wholesalers and retailers and delivery from ripening warehouse
5 Yellow with green tip Best condition for retail sale, as the fruit can still be kept for several days
6 Completely yellow Fruit appears at its best and is very tasty. When the fruit is this ripe, the skin is very sensitive to mechanical influences
7 Yellow with brown spots Small brown spots indicate that the fruit is fully ripe. Its aroma and flavor are at their best

Likewise, a visual check of the angularity of the fingers and color of the flesh will reveal ripeness: as the fruit ripens the fingers become rounder and the flesh changes color from white to yellowish. During loading, temperature and cutting tests are performed, the temperature of the test bananas being measured with a pulp thermometer. The bananas damaged in this way are discarded.

Banana diameter is measured using calipers. The measurement is stated either in mm or 32nds of an inch. Generally speaking, "grade" should be taken to mean the diameter of the central outer finger of an individual hand. Fruit to be shipped over long distances should be, for example, 41 - 43 grade (= 32.3 - 34.1 mm).

Finger length is measured over the outer curve of the longest finger on the inside of a cluster and should be 17 - 22 cm. Euro bananas should be 14 cm long and 27 mm thick.

The following table lists the features of freshly harvested and mature bananas which need to be taken into account when accepting a consignment:

Freshly harvested bananas Mature bananas
Fingers are square, lie close together, are hard, green, clean, without insect infestation Fingers are flabby, some turners (bananas which are approaching being "ripe to eat") present
Fruit breaks with an audible snap when broken in two Fruit does not break with an audible snap when broken in two
Pulp temperature no higher than the external temperature Pulp temperature higher than the external temperature
The cutting test gives rise to mucilaginous threads of juice 3 - 4 cm in length The cutting test gives rise to no mucilaginous threads of juice
Pulp (flesh of the fruit) = color of white flour Pulp = discoloration from pink to brown to black or dark spots
Skin cannot be separated from pulp Skin can be separated from pulp. Brown spots under skin: banana frosted, will not ripen properly
Hand stump well preserved with paraffin coating Hand stump flabby or beginning to rot or paraffin coating absent
No brown spots under skin Small brown spots under skin: banana frosted, will not ripen properly

Maximum duration of storage is as follows:

Designation Temperature Rel. humidity Max. duration of storage Source
Cavendish-Robusta 12.5 - 12.8°C 95% 28 days [1]
Bananas, general 13 - 15°C 80 - 95% 14 - 21 days [5]
Green bananas 13°C 90 - 95% 14 - 21 days [20]
Yellow bananas 13°C 90 - 95% 3 - 6 days [20]

Where controlled atmosphere transport is used, transport and storage duration may be extended (to a maximum of two months). The following parameters apply in such a case [16]:

Temperature Rel. humidity O2 CO2 Suitability for controlled atmosphere
13.9 - 15.6°C 85 - 95% 2 - 5% 2 - 5% very good

Intended use

Bananas are principally intended to be eaten fresh. They are also used to produce fruit salads, ice cream, liqueur, dried bananas, banana puree, banana chips etc..


(Click on the individual Figures to enlarge them.)

Photo, banana bush

Figure 2
Photo, banana bush

Figure 3
Photo, banana bush

Figure 3a
Photo, young bananas

Figure 4
Photo, flower spike

Figure 5
Photo, bunch of bananas

Figure 6
Photo, bananas

Figure 7
Photo, bananas

Figure 8
Photo, bananas

Figure 9
Photo, bananas

Figure 10
Photo, bananas

Figure 11
Drawing, bananas

Figure 12

Countries of origin

This Table shows only a selection of the most important countries of origin and should not be thought of as exhaustive.

Europe Spain
Africa Congo, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Somalia
Asia Philippines, Thailand, India
America Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama

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Bananas are packaged in perforated cartons of stable corrugated board with perforated plastic film lining. Two rows of approximately 8 - 10 clusters are laid in the bottom of the cartons and covered with protective packing material and then another two rows of 6 - 8 clusters are laid on top. The polyethylene bags are sealed or merely folded.

Photo, polyethylene film

Figure 13
Photo, perforation

Figure 14

a) Plan view b) side face c) End face

Figure 15: folding telescope cartons for bananas, Cavendish variety, from Ecuador

The cartons are provided with perforations to ensure a proper flow of cooling air around the bananas. For bananas of the Cavendish variety from Ecuador, 280 cm² and 220 cm² openings are left in the outer and inner closing flaps of the lid and base part respectively, to ensure that a vertical stream of air may pass through unhindered. In addition, the bananas packaged in perforated polyethylene bags may be easily checked for ripeness. The side faces each have four oblong perforations of 1.5 cm x 6 cm and the end faces each have a handle-type opening of 3.5 cm x 10 cm and a further two holes 3.5 cm in diameter. The proportion of the total surface area of the closed folding telescope carton occupied by perforations amounts to 8.18%. The lid part (tare 450 g) consists of single-wall corrugated board and the base part (tare 600 g) of double-wall corrugated board (Perforation options for shipping cartons for tropical and subtropical fruits).

Bananas may also be packaged in special packaging known as Banavac packaging. This consists of polyethylene bags 0.4 mm thick, in which the carbon dioxide content is raised to 5% and the oxygen content is reduced to 2% ("modified atmosphere"). The ethylene which arises is absorbed by the addition of potassium permanganate. This renders the fruit dormant, i.e. its respiration processes are interrupted, leaving it as harvested and unable to ripen, so extending storage life.

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Symbol, general cargo

General cargo


Means of transport

Ship, truck, railroad

Container transport

Refrigerated container with fresh air supply or controlled atmosphere

Cargo handling

Because of its impact- and pressure-sensitivity, the fruit has to be handled with appropriate care.

The required refrigeration temperature must always be maintained, even during cargo handling.

In damp weather (rain, snow), the cargo must be protected from moisture, as there is otherwise a risk of premature spoilage.

Stowage factor

2.30 - 2.90 m3/t (corrugated board cartons) [1]
3.63 - 3.90 m3/t (cartons) [11]
3.40 - 3.68 m3/t (corrugated board cartons) [14]

Stowage space requirements

Cool, dry, good ventilation


Marker pen/oil crayon

Cargo securing

Because of its considerable impact- and pressure-sensitivity, packages of this cargo must be secured in such a way that they are prevented from damaging each other. Spaces between packages or pallets must be filled, to prevent slippage or tipping. By selecting the correct packaging size or cargo unit (area module or area module multiple), holds can be tightly loaded (without spaces).

Photo, cargo securing

Figure 16

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Risk factors and loss prevention

RF Temperature

Bananas require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII) (storage climate conditions).

A written cooling order must be obtained from the consignor before loading is begun. This order must always be complied with during the entire transport chain. In the case of loading in containers, the temperature set for the refrigeration plant and the measured return air temperature should be compared with the temperatures specified in the cooling order as soon as possible after loading.

The following Tables merely constitute an estimate of appropriate temperature ranges. Temperatures may deviate from these values, depending on the particular transport conditions.

Designation Temperature range Source
Travel temperature    
Bananas, general 13.2°C [3]
Bananas, general 13 - 15°C [5]
Bananas, general 12.0 - 13.5°C [7]
Bananas, general 12 - 13°C [14]
Bananas, general 12 - 14°C [20]

Storage and transport temperatures are highly dependent on the variety. It is imperative that the specific travel temperature be indicated in writing by the consignor.

Holds/containers should be precooled prior to loading. The pre-refrigeration temperature and fitness for loading of the holds/containers should, if possible, be checked by an inspector.

During loading, temperature tests must be performed. The test bananas are measured with a pulp thermometer. The bananas may be overcooled by cold night temperatures (< 14°C) or stormy weather (chilling). If the pulp temperature of the bananas is higher than the daytime temperature (> 30°C), they may already have reached the climacteric, e.g. by being transported to the port without refrigeration or by being harvested too soon or exposed to the sun.

Chilling in bananas is manifested by an unattractive skin color (pink-brownish, brown stripes under the top layer of skin). The fruit loses its ability to ripen and the pulp becomes hard and dry and has an astringent taste. Ripening is no longer possible even in a ripening warehouse.

Excessively high temperatures make the flesh of the banana mushy, so that they are easily bruised, spoil more rapidly, develop an insipid taste and split open at the skin ends. These are referred to in the trade as "cooked bananas.

Photo, instance of damage

Figure 17
Photo, instance of damage

Figure 18
Photo, instance of damage

Figure 19

Should the temperature of the external air drop below the specified hold air temperature, the following should be noted:
  1. The fresh air (external air) supplied should be heated to ensure that the temperature does not drop below that specified.

  2. Depending on the heat or cold loss of the insulation of the hold and the heat yielded by the product ripening process, the hold temperature may drop below the specified temperature. From this point it must be ensured that the hold air is heated. Containers generally ensure this automatically.

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RF Humidity/Moisture

Bananas require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII) (storage climate conditions).

Designation Humidity/water content Source
Relative humidity 85 - 95% [1]
80 - 95% [4]
80 - 95% [5]
85 - 90% [14]
90 - 95% [20]
Water content approx. 75% [1]
Maximum equilibrium moisture content 80% [1]

Where humidity is too low, the ripening process may be incomplete and weight may be lost through the release of water vapor. The bananas are packaged in perforated polyethylene film, to ensure the necessary humidity.

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RF Ventilation

Bananas require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII) (storage climate conditions).

Recommended ventilation conditions: circulating air, 60 - 80 circulations/hour with continuous supply of fresh air

After cargo handling, bananas are frequently "cooled down", and during this stage no fresh air should be supplied. The subsequent supply of fresh air depends on the CO2 content of the hold air.

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RF Biotic activity

Bananas display 2nd order biotic activity.

They are living organs in which respiration processes predominate, because their supply of new nutrients has been cut off by separation from the parent plant.

Care of the cargo during the voyage must be aimed at controlling respiration processes (release of CO2, water vapor, ethylene and heat) in such a way that the cargo is at the desired stage of ripeness on reaching its destination. Inadequate ventilation may result in fermentation and rotting of the cargo as a result of increased CO2 levels and inadequate supply of atmospheric oxygen (see Ventilation).

The following Figure shows the ripening process of bananas:

Drawing, ripening process

Figure 20

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RF Gases

CO2 evolution at 12.5°C: 18.5 mg/kg*h [5]

So-called "turners" (bananas which have already reached the climacteric) exhibit the greatest respiration intensity (62 mg CO2 /kg*h).
Upper limit of permissible CO2 content 0.1 - 0.2 vol.% [1]

0.1 vol.% [14]
Ethylene evolution  
Active behavior Bananas are moderate ethylene producers. The ethylene production rate is 1 - 10 µl/kg*h [16].
Passive behavior The sensitivity of bananas to ethylene may be classified as high [16]. They must not therefore be stored together with ethylene-producing goods. Bananas are at particular risk if loaded together with apples and pears, since these fruits produce large quantities of ethylene (allelopathy).

In fresh fruit, metabolic processes continue even after harvesting. The fruit absorbs oxygen (O2) and excretes varying amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and ethylene (C2H4) as well as aromatic compounds during the conversion of starch into sugar (ripening process).

If ventilation has been inadequate (frost) or has failed owing to a defect, life-threatening CO2 concentrations or O2 shortages may arise. Therefore, before anybody enters the hold, it must be ventilated and a gas measurement carried out. The TLV for CO2 concentration is 0.49 vol.%.

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RF Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion

No risk.

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RF Odor

Active behavior Bananas have a very slight, pleasant odor. If some of the bananas have entered the climacteric (become turners), the odor emanating from the goods becomes markedly stronger. The supply of fresh air must then be increased to maximum levels to remove the ripening gases and any turners that are found must be disposed of, as there is otherwise the risk that the entire cargo will become prematurely ripe.
Passive behavior Bananas are very highly odor-sensitive.

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RF Contamination

Active behavior Bananas do not cause contamination.
Passive behavior Bananas are extremely sensitive to contamination. As a result, the clusters are dipped in an antioxidant bath at the packing station, for example, to prevent discoloration of latex residues. The holds or containers must accordingly be clean and in a thoroughly hygienic condition before loading.

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RF Mechanical influences

Bananas are highly impact- and pressure-sensitive. They must therefore be handled with appropriate care. Canary or dwarf bananas are particularly sensitive due to their thin skin. Damage leads very rapidly to spoilage of the goods.

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RF Toxicity / Hazards to health

If ventilation has been inadequate (frost) or has failed owing to a defect, life-threatening CO2 concentrations or O2 shortages may arise. Therefore, before anybody enters the hold, it must be ventilated and a gas measurement carried out. The TLV for CO2 concentration is 0.49 vol.%.

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RF Shrinkage/Shortage

Normal weight loss caused by a reduction in moisture content depends on the variety and may amount to 0.5 - 1% (3% in unfavorable instances) [1].

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RF Insect infestation / Diseases

Most losses caused by microorganisms arise as a result of mechanical damage to the product, such as split and broken fruit, burst skins and squashing.

Finger stalk rot: if cut surfaces of the clusters and hands are not carefully protected with fungicidal paste, finger stalk rot, which begins in fruit stalks, or comb rot, which begins in the cut area of the comb of a cluster or a hand, may easily occur. This disease is caused by the mold species Botryodiplodia theobromae and Gloeosporium musarum. The rot begins at the fruit stalks and spreads to the individual fruits, causing them to fall off. The skin turns brownish and later almost black, and becomes slippery and wrinkled. In moist air the skin is covered with a gray-green bloom. This infectious disease occurs both on the plantations and during storage.

Anthracnoses (fruit rot, black rot, tip rot): these diseases are caused by attack by Gloeosporium musarum, Botryodiplodia theobromae and Botrytis cinerea. Small, slightly sunken round brown spots form on the skin of the fruit, which in the later stages change into large, irregular, dark, almost black spots. Light, salmon-pink pustules then form in these larger spots, in which new spores develop. These spots may occur partly on the underside of the fruit, partly at the flower or stalk end of the fruit. The pulp exhibits watery rot and in later stages has a brown appearance.

Overripeness: overripeness in bananas may have the following causes:

the fruit was already too ripe when loaded (most frequent cause)
the holds/containers were not cooled down quickly enough
inadequate cooling during transport
influence of ripening gas ethylene

Photo, insect infestation

Figure 21
Photo, insect infestation

Figure 22

The quarantine regulations of the country of destination must be complied with and a phytosanitary certificate may have to be enclosed with the shipping documents. Information may be obtained from the phytosanitary authorities of the countries concerned.

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