Travel documents for bananas (our “Passport“)

Guess how many documents travel with bananas

As globetrotter fruits, we bananas need travel documents, a “passport”, to complete our long journey from the farms to the overseas supermarkets

Could you imagine travelling around the world without identification documents? Neither could we.
Let’s discover the main documentation that we need for our voyage

You may not have thought about all the legal papers that we bananas need to reach the port of landing. They are essential for our traceability across the entire supply chain.

Thanks to our travelling documents, you can know exactly the container and the box where we were placed before reaching the port.

As you could see in our previous post “Bananas on the runway to take off” (if not, please enjoy it here 😉 ), right after we are harvested, we bananas are sent to the packing house, where we are placed in boxes. Each box is labeled with a paper sticker that includes our grower´s code and that will allow supermarkets (and you too) to know precisely where we came from.Travel documents bananas

Then our boxes are placed in pallets, which are also properly strapped and identified with a label. Finally, at the packing house the pallets are loaded on trucks and transported to the dock. Our next stop in the route: the seaport of origin, where we are arranged in containers.

Some paperwork must be done before arriving to our port of destination

But to be placed in the right container, a few documents must be done before. So, which are they?

Logistics departmentCarlos from Banabio has helped me to list them. These travel documents are submitted together at each vessel. The most important ones are:

  • The Certificate of origin: in Europe, for instance, this is called the EUR.1 movement certificate. This form proves our origin, ascertained by the Ministry of Foreign Trade in Ecuador. It is essential to prove the country in which we bananas were produced and determines the trade measures applied to each particular export shipment.
  • Bill of landing (BL or BoL): another crucial document, issued by the shipping line and specifying that all goods (we bananas) mentioned in the form were loaded in good conditions. Here you will find the number of boxes, their weight, code number of each container, … .This kind of written forms already existed in Roman times, though at a smaller scale. They constituted receipts for the goods loaded aboard merchant vessels.
  • Phytosanitary certificate for export: bananas, as foodstuffs, must comply with sanitary and phytosanitary rules to protect human health. A phytosanitary certificate (issued by the Ministry of Agriculture) attests that bananas have been duly inspected and tested, are free from pests and conform with all phytosanitary requirements.
  • Packing list: another important document that specifies the content of each shipping container. Packing lists will always agree with the commercial invoice. They are attached to each container, thus expediting security controls of their contents.
  • Temperature data loggers: as shown in one of our first posts (Globetrotter bananita), temperatures play a fundamental role. Our shipping containers must remain at constant temperature to prevent premature ripening. Monitoring temperatures during the trip therefore provides essential information at our port of destination. This is not a paper that travels with us, but it is a crucial register generated after our landing.
And … what about organic bananas? We need a further document for travelling:
  • The Certificate of inspection (CoI): this is an essential form for the free circulation of imported organic goods like bananas. It is issued by an inspection body from the exporting country and must be submitted to the health authorities at the port of destination. Only after its approval can we, organic bananas, be free ;-).

We hope that the traceability along our long voyage is now somewhat clearer. Nevertheless, the above represents but a tiny fraction of all the documents involved in our shipment. We will talk about others, such as the “stowage plan” in a future post 🙂 .