Supply Chain Characteristics that Impact Traceability

Traceability Takeaways

  • Forced labor and child labor risks are present in banana production, harvesting, and packing nodes in multiple geographies. This requires downstream companies to start with an understanding of the geographic footprint of their direct and indirect supply chain partners.
  • Labor risks present include the use of third-party labor recruiters, improper use of short-term contracts and the casualization of workers, as well as the use of piece rate wage structures. Existing certification efforts used for traceability have not always successfully identified and addressed labor risk, so companies should prioritize more focused assessments of working conditions and follow-up actions. Because labor risks are present at multiple nodes and in multiple geographies, traceability solutions should be able to identify specific production sites so that further assessments of labor conditions can be conducted.
  • Bananas are one of the top traded fresh fruits and therefore tend to have less transformation throughout the supply chain. In fresh fruit supply chains, this can allow for traceability approaches that create unique identifiers for batches of bananas. However, banana supply chains include producers, packers, exporters, ripening companies, and distributors, and therefore interoperability of systems is important to ensure information about the origin of products is not lost throughout the supply chain.
  • Banana production for export in the international market includes both large-scale plantation production controlled by multi-national fruit companies and small to mid-scale growers that feed into export supply chains. Even in more vertically integrated supply chains – for example, when an importing company owns plantations that are producing bananas – traceability efforts should account for the possibility that exported batches are supplemented with bananas from other producers. Most large plantations work under contract with multinational companies that distribute bananas to global retailers. This structure allows multinational companies to establish longer term relationships with growers, and to invest in traceability capacity as well as human and labor rights efforts. This would require a shift from current company practices that prioritize flexibility via short-term contracts.

Nature of Labor Rights Risk/Vulnerable Workers

Forced Labor or Trafficking in Persons cited by U.S. Government

Child Labor cited by U.S. Government

Risk of Forced Labor or Trafficking in Persons cited by other source

Risk of Child Labor cited by other source

Documented presence of migrant workers

Documented presence or significant likelihood of third-party labor recruiters

Documented presence of other vulnerable workers

Features of Production and Supply Chain

Large numbers of dispersed, unorganized, or informal small producers or other worksites

High degree of flexibility in procurement practices of downstream entities

Multiple points of aggregation, co-mingling, and/or transformation across supply chain

Complex, opaque supply chains and/or lack of vertical integration

Distribution of Labor Risk in Various Production Areas

Scale or nature of risk varies significantly based on geographic area of production

Scale or nature of risk is strongly associated with certain types of suppliers/entities

Scale or nature of risk is present across multiple tiers or nodes of supply chain (including in associated downstream or upstream goods)

Linked Upstream and Downstream Risks

Risk in Nodes in Bananas Production

Most modern banana supply chains are structured as follows: the production and packing node, controlled by the producer; the export, import and ripening nodes, controlled by the fruit company; and the retail node, controlled by the retailer.19Banana Value Chains in Europe and the Consequences of Unfair Trading Practises. BASIC, October 2015,

In recent years, the banana supply chain has changed in certain locations as retailers increase their control over the supply chain. For example, these types of supply chains are emerging in the UK, with larger market retailers such as Morrison, Asda, and Tesco.20Banana Value Chains in Europe and the Consequences of Unfair Trading Practises. BASIC, October 2015, The emerging retailer-driven supply chain is structured as: the production and packing node, controlled by the producer; the export node, controlled by the exporter; the import node, controlled by the importer; and, the ripening and retail nodes, controlled by the retailer. In some situations, the retailer can also control the import node of the supply chain.21Banana Value Chains in Europe and the Consequences of Unfair Trading Practises. BASIC, October 2015,

The sustainability of the supply chain and the welfare of farmers and workers are no longer the sole responsibility of the banana trading companies, as retailers now possess significantly increased responsibility. This increased responsibility is a result of new developments in the freight markets: it is now possible to ship bananas on conventional vessels following the installation of refrigeration units.22Banana Value Chains in Europe and the Consequences of Unfair Trading Practises. BASIC, October 2015, Some of the UK’s largest supermarkets can now source directly from producers and contract their own services for shipping and ripening, thus shortening the supply chain.23Banana Value Chains in Europe and the Consequences of Unfair Trading Practises. BASIC, October 2015,

Cultivation and Harvesting


Transport (Export and Import)


Wholesale and Retail

Associated Downstream Goods and Consumer Sectors

Food and Beverage

Bananas are sold for personal consumption in the consumer food and beverage sector. Bananas are one of the most consumed and cheapest fruits worldwide, and they are the most traded fruit.

Some bananas are used in the production of flour, canned slices, jam, jelly puree, vinegar, wine and beer.

Top Global Countries

  1. Ecuador24 List of Exporters for the Selected Product in 2021. Product: 0803 Bananas, incl. plantains, fresh or dried. ITC Trade Map,
  2. Philippines
  3. Costa Rica
  4. Colombia
  5. Guatemala
  6. Belgium
  7. Netherlands
  8. United States of America
  9. Cote d’Ivoire
  10. Cameroon
  1. India25 Crops and Livestock Products. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,
  2. China
  3. Indonesia
  4. Brazil
  5. Ecuador
  6. Philippines
  7. Guatemala
  8. Angola
  9. Tanzania
  10. Costa Rica

Examples & Resources: Traceability Efforts Associated With Bananas