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Carbon footprint of a Cavendish banana supply chain

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Bananas are one of the highest selling fruits worldwide, and for several countries, bananas are an important export commodity. However, very little is known about banana’s contribution to global warming. The aims of this work were to study the greenhouse gas emissions of bananas from cradle to retail and cradle to grave and to assess the potential of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions along the value chain.


Carbon footprint methodology based on ISO-DIS 14067 was used to assess GHG emissions from 1 kg of bananas produced at two plantations in Costa Rica including transport by cargo ship to Norway. Several methodological issues are not clearly addressed in ISO 14067 or the LCA standards 14040 and ISO 14044 underpinning 14067. Examples are allocation, allocation in recycling, representativity and system borders. Methodological choices in this study have been made based on other standards, such as the GHG Protocol Products Standard.

Results and discussion

The results indicate that bananas had a carbon footprint (CF) on the same level as other tropical fruits and that the contribution from the primary production stage was low. However, the methodology used in this study and the other comparative studies was not necessarily identical; hence, no definitive conclusions can be drawn. Overseas transport and primary production were the main contributors to the total GHG emissions. Including the consumer stage resulted in a 34 % rise in CF, mainly due to high wastage. The main potential reductions of GHG emissions were identified at the primary production, within the overseas transport stage and at the consumer.


The carbon footprint of bananas from cradle to retail was 1.37 kg CO2 per kilogram banana. GHG emissions from transport and primary production could be significantly reduced, which could theoretically give a reduction of as much as 44 % of the total cradle-to-retail CF. The methodology was important for the end result. The choice of system boundaries gives very different results depending on which life cycle stages and which unit processes are included. Allocation issues were also important, both in recycling and in other processes such as transport and storage. The main uncertainties of the CF result are connected to N2O emissions from agriculture, methane emissions from landfills, use of secondary data and variability in the primary production data. Thus, there is a need for an internationally agreed calculation method for bananas and other food products if CFs are to be used for comparative purposes.

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The authors would like to thank the Norwegian Research Council and the companies BAMA, Nortura, Tine, Norgesgruppen and Coop for financial support and supplying the necessary data for the assessments. We would also like to thank the Dole Food Company for kind cooperation and colleagues at SIK and Ostfold Research for their support.

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Correspondence to Erik Svanes.

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Svanes, E., Aronsson, A.K.S. Carbon footprint of a Cavendish banana supply chain. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18, 1450–1464 (2013).

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