Fairtrade bananas are an easy and healthy way to support Fairtrade. As a simple snack or a delicious cooking ingredient we can change the world bunch by bunch. Fairtrade bananas are showing the industry that there is another way to do business, with fairness to farmers, workers and the environment at its heart.
We're all bananas for bananas. Kiwis eat more than any other country - on average, 18kgs per person per year - and for millions of farmers and workers in tropical countries, growing bananas is their livelihood.
“These bananas are different because they protect our families, our community and our environment. They create a new life for my country and a new culture in your countries.”
- Silvia Arevalo, El Guabo Fairtrade banana farmer, Ecuador.
Bananas are grown by small-scale family farms and plantation workers in tropical regions, and they are a staple food in developing countries. In fact, bananas are the fourth most important food staple in the world. They are also the fifth most-traded agricultural commodity - after cereals, sugar, coffee and cocoa - and generate billions of dollars.
In the banana industry, production, profits, and market access are highly concentrated. Five corporations control around 80 percent of the sales on the banana import market worldwide.
Most bananas in Australia and New Zealand come from Ecuador - one of the world’s largest exporters of bananas - and the Philippines, where the banana industry is a major employer and generates vital foreign exchange earnings that governments depend on to improve health, education, and other social services and infrastructure.
The trade in bananas is a cornerstone for many developing countries' economies, but the social problems in the industry are many and complex - there have been problems for workers wanting to organise in trade unions; and unhealthy and environmentally hazardous chemicals handled without adequate protection.
Large plantations are capital intensive, with machinery and economies of scale. Small-scale or smallholder banana production is generally more labour-intensive, and these farmers have difficulty gaining the economies of scale needed to compete with large farms. They often lack access to new technologies, tools and knowledge that large farms receive from the multinational companies that buy their fruit.
This means they lose out economically in a trade dominated by plantations, exporters, ripeners and retailers. They have to deal with rising costs of producing the fruit while prices they receive stagnate. They also battle with the growing impact of climate change that has resulted in erratic rain patterns, hurricanes and new diseases, making production unpredictable and sometimes unsustainable.
Only around 20 percent of the prices paid by consumers in supermarkets reach the exporting country; workers' salaries and farmers' incomes reflect a small fraction of total revenue.
Bananas for Fairtrade
Fairtrade works to support small-scale banana farmers and workers employed on plantations. We work with the banana trade to create more value for producers and ensure they get a decent price and decent pay for the hard physical labour that goes into tending, growing and packing the fruit.
Bananas carrying the Fairtrade Mark are produced by small-scale farmers’ organizations or plantations that meet Fairtrade’s social, economic and environmental standards. The standards include protection of workers’ rights and the environment, and payment of the Fairtrade Minimum Price to cover the costs of sustainable production, protecting against an unpredictable market, and an additional Fairtrade Premium of US $1 per box of bananas to invest in business or community projects.
The Fairtrade Minimum Prices and Premium are set at the same level for both types of organisation. However, the Fairtrade standards for banana production differ between small farmers' organisations and plantations.
Standards for small-scale banana farmers include profits being distributed equally among the members of the cooperative or association and all members of the producer organisation must have a voice in the decision-making process and in group organisation.
Standards for banana plantations include a rule that the Fairtrade Premium must not be used to cover on-going operating expenses. Instead it must be used to improve living and working conditions. The workers must have the right to join an independent union; health and safety measures must be established to avoid work-related injuries; and salaries must be at least equal to the regional average or the minimum wage.
There are currently 27,100 banana farmers and workers in Fairtrade in 63 certified cooperatives and 50 certified plantations. These producers have Fairtrade Premium payments to spend on healthcare, education, housing and other vital improvements to their lives and communities.