Contemporary Banana Packing Techniques
Harvesting, packing and storing bananas in the ORIA
Page last updated: Monday, 27 July 2020 - 2:12pm
For bananas on the Ord River Irrigation Area, length of time to emergence and harvesting depend on air temperature, planting time and sucker management.
Ratoon crops are much slower to reach maturity than new crops.
bananas in box 2.JPG
Expected time to reach bunch emergence and harvest
Planting to bunch emergence 6-9 months
Ratoon 1: 14-16 months
Ratoon 2: 24 months
Bunch emergence to harvest 3-4 months
Planting to harvest 10-13 months
Ratoon 1: 17-19 months
Ratoon 2: 27 month
The time to ratoon harvest and bunch emergence is highly variable due to staggered selection of suckers.
Planting between August and October gives the shortest times to harvest. While May planting gives the longest time to harvest.
Typically, growers achieve 40t/ha of bananas from the traditional-based systems and about 60t/ha with annual tissue culture or in a well-managed plantation. This can be highly variable and depends on numerous factors especially climate, (temperatures and sunshine) and storm damage.
Most growers would expect to pack up to 1.5 cartons per bunch of bananas, after losses and quality control. The bunch is harvested when the angles on the fruit have almost disappeared and the fruit is evenly filled.
During very hot weather the fruit may need to be cut thinner with more prominent angles. During changeable weather ‘mixed ripe’ fruit may occur where some fingers in the bunch ripen prematurely. Earlier harvest of thinner fruit will avoid most of this problem.
The parent or plant crop harvest can usually be spread over two months in a plantation due to non-uniform bunch maturity. Each successive ratoon crop’s harvesting time will become longer.
Bananas should be carefully handled at all stages of the harvesting and packing process. Rough handling can result in damage that does not become evident until the carton is opened at the markets after the ripening process. In very hot weather, bananas should be harvested during the coolest part of the day.
For information on assessing maturity see the Tropical Banana Information kit.
Bananas are always harvested by hand using a two-person team. One person cuts and the other carries the bunch away. When cutting the bunch, a shallow cross cut is made with a cane knife in the stem facing the bunch. A saw is commonly used to cut the bunch from the stem. The weight of the bunch causes the stem to bend. At this point the bunch is then lowered onto the shoulder padding of the second person and the bunch stem is cut.
To allow the parent stem to remain intact for assisting growth of suckers, the carrier can use a ladder and the person cutting can use a long handled cutting knife to cut the bunch stem.
Each bunch of bananas is individually placed upright onto a trailer that is padded. Padding is also placed on each side to prevent any rubbing between bunches. At the packing shed the bananas are hung, have their bunch covers removed, dehanded, washed, and then packed.
A small thin straight-bladed knife is used to cut banana hands from the bunch stalk. Once removed, any undersized and damaged fingers are removed. The hand then can be placed on a packing wheel or into a water trough/conveyor system where it is sorted and graded for size and quality.
Bananas are packed as whole hands, part hands or clusters in cardboard cartons with plastic liners. Plastic slip-sheets are used between full hands and absorbent paper is placed in the bottom of the carton. Cartons are staked onto pallets for ease of pickup and delivery for transport.
To ensure a net weight of 13kg when a carton of bananas reaches the markets, they are usually packed to a weight of 13.5 to 13.7kg in order to allow for any weight loss.
The grower’s name and address must appear on the carton.
For more information on packing process see Tropical Banana Information kit.
The Cavendish variety has three fruit grades, dependent on finger size. The length is measured from the tip of the fruit to the end of the stalk on the outside curve. Circumference is measured at right angles to the curve of the fruit, at the point where the diameter is the greatest.
The grades are:
Extra large: at least 200mm long and 115mm in circumference
Large: 177 to 200mm long and at least 108mm in circumference
Medium: 140 to 177mm long and at least 101mm in circumference.
Gassing and cold chain management
Once packed, bananas should be cool stored at 13°C. They are normally ripened at metropolitan markets, though some can be ripened on the farm for local consumption.
All ORIA bananas are marketed through Perth. WA growers cannot currently supply the full WA banana demands, supplying about 40 to 50% of demand.
Banana Packing Process
Banana exports are becoming important sources of Thailand's revenue since bananas are perceived as full of nutrients and people consume them not only as a food staple but also as a nutritious supplement. Since consumers are concerned about the health effects of chemical residue in food, it is becoming important for banana exporters to make sure bananas are not contaminated by chemicals, bacteria, mold or insects. This means improving standards in banana production processes. The receiving and packaging steps begin first, when bananas arrive from the farm. Then bananas are inspected and information is recorded. Next, bananas are weighed, tested, cleaned, cut, and packed. After the final packing data is recorded, labels are put on cartons. Finally, specific storage procedures are required before determining delivery dates for target destinations. Effective banana processing practices will sustain Thailand's competitive edge in the world banana market.
Banana packing procedures:
The banana plantation worker, as the main actor in a manufacturing process that provides 35% of agricultural produce in the country, has been relegated to a working field in spaces conditioned only for productive processes, leaving aside the possibility of designing working environments that consider vital aspects in their workplace, such as the correct dispositions of working planes, visual ergonomics and hygrothermal comfort, factors that affect the well-being, health, and productivity of individuals. The Urabá zone, located in the department of Antioquia, produced, according to data provided by AUGURA, 73% of national banana exports during 2013, positioning itself as the biggest banana zone in the country, which is a relevant condition for the development of this research, which starts with the architectural survey, spatial, functional and working conditions of a banana packing plant (BPP) in the municipality of Apartadó, from which analysis benchmarks of the conditions of the banana production process are established, and fundamental aspects for an optimized rehabilitation plan of BPP´s are identified. The theoretical framework of the research considers the analysis of the environmental conditions in a warm humid climate, workspace and process occupation areas assessment, studyof human factors associated with the stations’ operation, and analysis of ergonomic and dynamic anthropometric conditions. The result of this research is a series of rehabilitation guidelines for BPP´s, which influence in the quality of working environments and the productivity of the process.Relevant aspects obtained from this research, will be discussed with the banana producing factories and export companies and those could be projected on production business models, from the architecture, human factors and ergonomic´s. © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier.
Banana Packing Methods: Historical
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 :
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:
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 
Bananas, general 13 – 15°C 80 – 95% 14 – 21 days 
Green bananas 13°C 90 – 95% 14 – 21 days 
Yellow bananas 13°C 90 – 95% 3 – 6 days 
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 :
Temperature Rel. humidity O2 CO2 Suitability for controlled atmosphere
13.9 – 15.6°C 85 – 95% 2 – 5% 2 – 5% very good
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
Photo, flower spike
Figure 5 Photo, bunch of bananas
Figure 6 Photo, bananas
Figure 7 Photo, bananas
Figure 9 Photo, bananas
Figure 10 Photo, bananas
Figure 11 Drawing, bananas
Countries of origin
This Table shows only a selection of the most important countries of origin and should not be thought of as exhaustive.
Africa Congo, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Somalia
Asia Philippines, Thailand, India
America Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama
Back to beginning
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
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.