Sipef Headquarters

Kasteel Calesberg - Calesbergdreef 5
B-2900 Schoten - Belgium
Phone: +32 3 641 97 00


In the 16th century the Portuguese sailors that brought bananas from West Africa to the Americas. The name “banana” originated from the Wolof language in West Africa, it is the common name for the herbaceous plant of the genus Musa.

The banana plant is the largest known herbaceous flowering plant and it is often mistaken for a tree. These plants can grow 6 to 7 meters tall. The leaves of the banana plant grow in spirals and can reach 2.7 meters long and 60 cm wide. The female flowers, which develop into fruit, appear in rows higher up the stem than the male flowers. Bananas develop from the banana heart, in a large hanging cluster, made up of tiers (also called hands), with up to 20 fruit to a tier. The hanging cluster is called a bunch, comprising of 3 to 20 tiers, or commercially a "banana stem", and they can weigh from 15 to 50 kilograms. Contrary to most other fruits, bananas grow pointing up, not hanging down.

As cultivated bananas are parthenocarpic, they are sterile and unable to produce viable seeds. Without seeds propagation typically involves removing and transplanting part of the underground stem (called a corm). Commercial propagation occurs by means of tissue culture, this is the preferred method since it ensures disease-free planting material.

Because it is a non-seasonal crop, fresh bananas are available year-round. Cavendish bananas are the main commercial banana cultivars sold in the world market. Export grade bananas are picked green, and ripen in special rooms upon arrival in the destination country. Bananas are refrigerated to between 13 and 14 °C during transport.

On arrival, bananas are held at about 17 °C and treated with a low concentration of ethylene. After a few days, the fruit begins to ripen and is then ready for distribution to the final point of sale. The vivid yellow color normally associated with supermarket bananas is in fact a side effect of the artificial ripening process.

Both bananas and plantains constitute a major staple food crop for millions of people in developing countries. In most tropical countries, the green (unripe) bananas are used for cooking. Bananas are among the most widely consumed fruits in the world and contain moderate amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese and potassium.