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In the 19th century, a few pioneering entrepreneurs set out to make a tropical fruit the most popular in the U.S. They succeeded, and the banana is still Americans' favorite fruit. In the last decade, the U.S. imported an average of $2.2 billion worth of bananas each year, largely from Central and South America.
Most of this business is done by three major companies: Chiquita, Fresh Del Monte and Dole. But their businesses — and Americans' eating habits — are under threat as bananas face an existential crisis. Since the mid-1980s, a deadly fungus has spread from Southeast Asia to Australia, the Middle East and Africa. It causes Panama disease, which can wipe out entire plantations of bananas.
Watch this video to learn about Panama disease, as well as how Chiquita's predecessor, United Fruit, industrialized bananas in the first place.