Have you ever wondered why Bananas are so cheap? Why their 50% plus cheaper than apples?
It's a price war.
The continuous competition between major brands Dole, Del Monte and Chiquita, grocery stores and consumer demand results in devastating effects environmentally and socially. These Latin American fruits are the most consumed fruit in North America and UK arriving mostly from Ecuador. Banana exports accounted for 40.3% of Ecuador’s total exports in 2016, and Ecuadorian bananas account for 30% of the world's banana supply.
Harriet Lamb, past CEO of Fair Trade International has been a fair trade advocate her whole life, especially when it comes to bananas. She wrote the book Fighting The Banana Wars and other Fairtrade Battles and was responsible for the UK importing 40% of their bananas as fair trade bananas.
The UK grocery sector is one of the most diverse and sophisticated in the world. In 2014, it was worth £175 billion and bananas are the single biggest profit-making item sold on UK supermarket shelves. The UK market for bananas is one of the biggest in Europe, and the UK consumption per capita is the highest in the EU.
Bananas are frequently a weapon of choice in the price wars pursued by major supermarkets. Over the last few years, banana prices have been pushed down to ridiculously low levels, sometimes as little as $.63 per kg. As a result, average banana consumer prices have fallen sharply by more than 50% in real terms between 2000 and 2014.
All of this comes at a cost.
The bananas we all know and love are from one variety called Cavendish. The lack of genetic diversity makes plants highly susceptible to disease and pests, therefore large amounts of pesticides are sprayed on the crops. They are sprayed more than another other tropical fruit due to their thick peel and because of the large amounts used, farmers spend more on the pesticides than on their workers.
This can lead to water contamination, massive levels or waste, soil erosion, risk of flooding, deforestation and destruction of habitats. 85% of the chemicals are sprayed by plane so the fields, workers, their homes and food are saturated in these chemicals. Many workers and their families deal with health issues such as depression, respiratory problems, cancer, miscarriages, birth defects and sterility.
Because these companies own or contract plantations, own sea transport and ripening facilities, and have their own distribution networks they control pricing, they hold all the power. A common practice is to sub contract work to reduce the responsibility of working conditions, labour standards and living wages.
Hired help are working long hours, with no overtime pay in unbearable heat and no protection from the harsh chemicals. In the last 15 years the amount of women working on plantations has dropped by 60% due to workers rights, health issues, sexual harassment, domestic abuse, lack of child care and under representation in unions. Farmers only earn 5-7% and plantation workers only 1-3% while the rest goes to the corporations and retailers.
Fair Trade Organic bananas, protect workers right, create safe working conditions, advocate for for women's rights, protect the land and pay a fair wage.
So what are you going to choose?
There are lots of great resources to learn more, some really great documentaries. I suggest checking out Equifruit's website to learn about how they are bringing Fair Trade Bananas to Canada and there are links to those resources.
You can find Fair Trade Organic Bananas at the following locations in KW:
Unfactory farm (vendor at the Kitchener Farmers Market)
Goodness Me (occasionally)
Farm Boy (occasionally)