The History Of Banana In Jamaica

by Barbara King
(UK and Jamaica)

Did you know that Jamaica was the first commercial producer of bananas in the Western Hemisphere?

Oh Yeah! It began in 1866

And did you also know that originally, bananas had large seeds, but seedless varieties were propagated to replace those?

Well now you do!

From Sugar To Banana

In 1848, over 500 estates grew sugar cane in Jamaica, but by 1910 there were only 10 estates, even although the population had grown. Jamaica had started to export rum, tobacco, ginger, pimento and citrus fruit, that raised some finance, but not enough, so the banana industry was what helped the country's economy.

Origin Of Banana

The banana actually originated in South Asia, and was distributed across Africa by the Arabs. In 1516, they were taken from the Canary Islands to Hispaniola by a Spanish missionary, then onto Jamaica.

There were several varieties of bananas in Jamaica then but the Gros Michel was cultivated only after arriving in the country with a French botanist called Pouyat from Martinique to be planted in his St Andrew coffee plantation in 1835.

It was known at first as martnick because of its origin, and as the soil and heavy rainfall were suitable for cultivation it became a success in many areas such as Port Antonio, Portland.

The Banana Boom

Banana cultivation spread west, then south into sugar estates, replacing the sugar industry and bringing greater opportunities to the country. There were also mall settlers with a couple of hectares who grew bananas and sold them to
commission paid agents at railway stations.

Unlike sugar which is seasonal, bananas were harvested throughout the year, therefore creating the need for more ships with refrigeration, which also carried passengers and other freight.

By 1929 the Jamaica Banana Producers Association was formed to bring growers under one body for protection and recognition. With stable conditions, government aid, more respect for the law, JBPA had protection from outside companies. It gave members independence and protection from the giant United Fruit Company who were getting exclusive control of the trade.

JBPA handled a large percentage of Jamaica's total fruit output and received help from the Government for running regular shipping services. In 1936 JBPA became a private trading company called All Island Banana Growers Association
which was a co-operative.

The Banana Struggle

Other associations began to form for cane farmers, citrus, cocoa, coffee, coconut farmers and livestock breeders that were of social and economic importance.

Tate and Lyle Investments from England revived the sugar trade, buying properties including United Fruit Company Land. They developed modern methods of production with new factories to help do the work some small inefficient factories previously did.

The sugar yield increased: The year 1888 average yield was 45 tonnes, and 1956 average yield was 81 tonnes. And World Wars 1 and 2 further encouraged sugar production but caused a slump in the banana trade :-( almost ceasing in the Second World War due to the lack of shipping and the unimportance of the fruit compared to other food.

The British Government paid for each years crop, although they weren't shipped because of the risk of bombing and wanting to maintain the industry.

Banana Today

Today, while Jamaica still export bananas and bi-products of bananas, the industry continues to operate way below its potential but for various reasons.

One of the main reasons is the frequent battering by hurricanes. Charlie (1951), Flora (1963) Carmen (1974, Allen (1980) Gilbert (1988), Ivan (2004), Dennis and Emily (2005) and Sandy (2012) are just a few.

And they all seemed to appear at times just about when the industry starts to blossom. In some cases, export were halted to for several years! Not only has it thwarted its direct development, it also discouraged investors.

But according to the All Island Banana Growers’ Association, The Banana Board currently maintains over 150 varieties at the gene bank at the Bodles Breeding Research Banana Station, including the traditional varieties of:

  • Robusta
  • Williams (Ziv)
  • Grand Nain
  • Lacatan
  • Gros Michel
  • Silk (Chinese, Apple and Thousand Fingers)

As well as several varieties developed or endemic to Jamaica, which includes:

  • RG1 (developed by Ren Gonsalves)
  • Tetraploid 1242 (developed by Dr. Ken Shephard)
  • Tetraploid 6812 (developed by Dr. Ken Shephard)
  • Highgate Variety

What will become of these? And when will we start seeing the true potential of the banana in Jamaica? Successive governments have hinted at its development through mitigating measures, but the 'proof is we say is in the pudding banana'.

St. Mary and Portland currently produces the largest number of bananas in Jamaica.

By the way, can you make banana bread, Jamaican style? Here is a simple recipe to enjoy while we still have some banana.


  1. "Jamaica Banana Industry", All Island Banana Growers’ Association, Retreived from
  2. "Bananas", H.W. Von Loesecke, revised 2nd edition, Interscience Publishers, Inc. New York, 1950

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Have_Your_Say.

New! Talk To Me
Was the information helpful? Something needs changing? I welcome your feedback here.

Read More ...

Recommended For You ...

Don't Make The Mistakes Others Do!

Get The TIPS & TRICKS For Your Jamaica Vacation In Our Jamaica Travel Guide!

jamaica travel guide

Click Here To Get Your Copy

And, Before You Go!

Here (below) are some sweet deals on matching products at Amazon that you might have otherwise missed., by the way, is the internet's most reputable retailer and usually showcases only the best products that are related to your search. Be sure to check them out.

Note: If link does not show, please click here to be redirected to our page at

Great Articles You Might Have Missed

data-matched-content-rows-num="2" data-matched-content-columns-num="3"

Please help me get the message out by sharing this article with your friends on social media (links below). Thnx ;-)

Also connect with on Social Media: 
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

Thank You!

P.S. Didn't find exactly what you were looking for? Still need help?

Click Here to try our dependable and effective Site Search tool. It works!

Or, simply click here and here, to browse my library of over 500 questions and answers! Chances are someone already asked (and got an answer to) your question.

About The Author

wellesley gayle - booking link

A patriotic Jamaican who adores his culture, Wellesley has been using this medium to share what he calls 'the uniqueness of Jamaica with the world' - since April 2007.  

To date, he serves over 8,300 unique readers / viewers per day.

His efforts have earned him featured positions in local publications, including the Jamaica Gleaner's Hospitality Jamaica, Carlong Publishers, as well as recognition from numerous prestigious international agencies and universities.

He invites you to join his friends list and stay updated on all the latest. You are also invited to join his exclusive patron community

Top Of Page
Wellesley Gayle

New Here?

I recommend you START HERE to enjoy the best of this website!

What's New?

Click Here to see the VERY latest articles and features.

Trending Now

Site Sponsors


Our Preferred Sponsors  & Friends (below)

(Our Sponsorship Policy)

list your business here

Builders in Jamaica - Building Contractors
Recommended Building Contractors In Jamaica Photographers in Jamaica
Wedding Photographers
Cars For Sale In Jamaica
Cars For Sale


Click Here to Visit Our Sponsors' Page

Top Articles

What's New?

Below is a list of the very latest articles I posted on the site.

Recent Articles

  1. How To Get A Bailiff In Jamaica?

    Sep 16, 19 12:58 PM

    Where can you find bailiffs in Jamaica and how can you get one to remove a squatter or perhaps even tennant, who is occupying your property illegally.

    Read More

  2. Cost of cutting keys in Jamaica

    Sep 15, 19 09:08 PM

    Yes, we answer almost all questions about Jamaica from the best places to visit to yes, the cost of cutting keys! And that's the question we'll answer

    Read More

  3. Jamaican visiting france, need a visa?

    Sep 15, 19 09:02 PM

    I have a Jamaican friend with Jamaican passport. He wants to visit me in France for 6 months. Does he also need a Visa? How long can he stay for? Thanks

    Read More

  4. Congratulations | The Jamaica Recipe Contest Winners Are Now Posted

    Sep 14, 19 07:56 PM

    The fun Jamaica recipe contest has ended and we have the winners, all of six (6) of them. Here they are, and this is what they won.

    Read More

New!  I've created a Welcome Audio. Just click the Play button below to listen.

Please subscribe here to get my latest updates.