One Grocery Staple Will Seemingly Stay Cheap Forever

Amid rising grocery costs, bananas have remained affordable.

At a moment when high grocery store prices seem to be challenging us with little relief in sight, it's comforting to know that one staple item has remained cheap—and will likely stay that way for a long time. Axios reports that bananas, a fruit that the United States imports more than any other country in the world by volume, have remained an affordable grocery item for years, making it one of the few historically recession-proof foods.

Why bananas have always been so affordable

The average price for bananas per pound came in at just under $0.62 in January 2024, which by any measure is remarkably low in cost. That's even well under the global average of $0.73 per pound. What's more, the crop has been available for under a dollar per pound for decades—a fact that's particularly evident at Trader Joe's, where bananas cost $0.19 each.

Advertisement

There are plenty of reasons bananas remain so affordable. The labor costs associated with growing them are low; shipping them has become more efficient; and good growing conditions have ensured healthy crops throughout the years. Their crop yield is also very large, considering the plant has been bred over centuries to grow that way.

Since bananas spoil relatively quickly, growers have to move them quickly. That means they're more likely to dump this produce at a lower cost in order to send them on their way well before they go bad.

Of course, low prices for American shoppers mean that someone, somewhere, is paying down the line. A 2018 Univision feature highlights the ways in which laborers involved in banana harvests face physical risks in their jobs, including carpal tunnel syndrome, and fungal infections from immersing their hands in water for too long. Their pay can cap out at $14 per day.

Advertisement

As for why we don't grow bananas here in the United States, there aren't a lot of places in our country where the crop would thrive; the plants are grown in tropical climates. Plus, Central American countries have developed such a streamlined process for producing bananas that it would take immense resources and a lot of time to catch up.

If there's any grocery item that'll remain affordable to us for the foreseeable future, it's bananas, star of our favorite cakes and breads. But it's worth remembering that they're easy on our wallets in large part because of hard work that often goes unrecognized.

Recommended

Advertisement