A kilo of bananas has risen from an average 70p at the big four a year ago to 94p this week, with a 14% price rise since November alone [Grocer 33]. Higher fruit and shipping costs have been exacerbated by the collapse of sterling against the euro and the dollar to push prices up.
And producers predict that further rises are on the way. Irish supplier Fyffes this week announced it would be seeking “significant increases in selling prices in all key markets” to offset the effect of the strengthening of the dollar against sterling.
“I think we’ll see a significant increase in the retail price of bananas this year, driven by the exchange rates,” added Chris Mack, chairman of leading fruit importer Fresca Group.
While not putting a figure on the price rises, Mack said the cost of importing bananas had gone up 25% in the past 12 months.
Despite the higher prices, the relationship between banana suppliers and retailers is worsening as retailers attempt to avoid larger increases, according to Jacqui Mackay, national co-ordinator of Banana Link.
“Banana prices are used as a weapon in the price wars conducted between the major supermarkets in search of greater market share and greater buying power,” she said.
But producers argue that raising the price of bananas has little effect on purchasing and consumption. “We would agree that consumers are not really aware of banana prices,” said Dickon Poole, group marketing manager at JP Fresh.
“Even when one goes in store, it is not always easy to find the shelf price. We have a number of pieces of research from TNS proving this point.”
Another banana ripener said the shelf price could “easily pass £1/kg” without having any impact on consumer purchasing patterns whatsoever.