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United Fruit Company - the Product


Bananas and workers in warehouse
Bananas and workers in warehouse

Before World War II, the main sources of bananas were located along the east coast of Central and South America. Although Honduras and Columbia featured coastlines of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, their banana shipping routes were mainly focused on the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Equador was the only major producer of bananas on South America's west coast and was starting to show promise as a key world exporter in the early 1930s. The countries of Central America, such as Honduras, were also beginning to export bananas more frequently from their west coast ports.

View from roof of main office
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During World War II, because of the frequency of German submarines in the Carribean, oceangoing shipments of bananas from South and Central America decreased. Overall, worldwide shipping routes were greatly restricted during the war years and into the early 1950s. To make up for this loss, overland transportation routes into the United States flourished. In 1946, Mexico was a major exporter, accounting for almost 15% of bananas entering the United States. After the war, Equador once again rose to prominence and became the world's largest banana exporter. At the same time, the expensive and time-consuming overland shipments from Mexico lost their appeal. (View modern photos of Berth 147.)

By 1966, ocean shipping made up 99% of all banana imports to the United States.