Consumers want fair play for farmers and workers

Woman carrying bananas

Results of new research released today show the overwhelming majority of people in the UK back the Fairtrade Fortnight campaign proposition that supermarket banana price wars are dysfunctional and support paying farmers more, as the poorest people are bearing the cost of our cheap bananas.

A massive 84% of consumers across the UK say they are willing to pay more for their bananas to get producers out of poverty, strong evidence which the Foundation says proves the public cares about the conditions farmers and workers face, despite supermarkets pushing the prices of bananas down.  Over the past 10 years, the price of a banana has halved, while the cost of production has doubled, trapping banana producers and their communities in an unrelenting cycle of poverty.

Significantly the poll also shows that the majority of consumers aren’t even aware of what they pay for loose bananas or that prices have been going down.  Over 40 per cent of the people polled actually thought the price of bananas has gone up, a further 20 per cent admitted they didn’t know if prices were going up or down and only 7 per cent realised the price of bananas has plummeted. In the past 10 years, the typical price of a kilogram of loose bananas has fallen in most major supermarkets from £1.08  in 2002 to just 68p today.

‘There’s a futile but dangerous price war going on and the banana farmers are the collateral damage. This survey shows that people in the UK do not want this practice to be carried out ‘in their name’,” says Fairtrade Foundation Chief Executive Michael Gidney.  

The independent poll has revealed:

84% of consumers are willing to pay more for their bananas if the extra benefits farmers and workers’ lives.

67% of consumers are concerned about banana farmers and workers’ living conditions.

60% of consumers believe government should step in to ensure supermarkets sell bananas at a price so producers can earn a decent living.

 

Source: ICM online omnibus: nationally representative sample of 2,000 GB adults aged 18+

The survey was commissioned by the Fairtrade Foundation for the second week of Fairtrade Fortnight, which is looking at the real impact of British supermarket price wars on banana farmers and workers and their families.  As part of the Fairtrade Fortnight campaign, a report called Britain’s Bruising Banana Wars reveals that in the last decade, the UK supermarket sector has almost halved the shelf price of loose bananas while the cost of producing them has doubled.

The survey shows that while consumers care most about taste, appearance, ripeness and price when buying bananas, once they learn about farmers and workers’ poor living and working conditions, shoppers are moved to make a difference. The poll shows that 60 per cent of shoppers think that they should take responsibility and choose bananas that ensure a fair deal for banana producers and 58 per cent think that supermarkets should increase the price of loose bananas to levels that allow farmers and workers to earn a decent living.

As part of the Fairtrade Fortnight campaign, the Fairtrade Foundation is claiming that if supermarkets are unable to make pricing work for both consumers and farmers, it is time for the government to step in to end these unfair practices.

Over 10,000 people have already signed the Fairtrade Foundation petition since its launch seven days ago, asking the government to urgently investigate the impact of retailer pricing practices.

‘Even in times of austerity, people in the UK do care about the people who produce the foods we enjoy.  They clearly want supermarkets to be responsible.  More and more people understand that, when things are too cheap, someone somewhere is paying the price. 

‘This poll shows that there is a public mandate for change.  It is a clear message to government to show leadership and stop this race to the bottom, where the price of cheap bananas is poverty in developing countries,’ adds Michael Gidney.

The relentless downward pressure on banana prices has driven a shift in many banana producing countries towards job losses, the casualisation of labour and the marginalisation of smallholder producers. It makes it much harder for farmers and workers to achieve the improvements they badly need in wages, access to services like education and healthcare, improved housing and environmental sustainability in banana production.

Fairtrade’s engagement with supermarkets has been hugely positive since it began 20 years ago with the first three products in 1994.  Bananas have been a Fairtrade success story with Fairtrade banana producers now benefitting enormously as one in three bananas sold in the UK is Fairtrade and three major supermarkets have committed to selling only Fairtrade bananas . Fairtrade provides a vital safety net for these banana farmers and workers. But the Britain’s Bruising Banana Wars report says intense price competition between supermarkets is preventing progress towards making the whole banana industry fair and outlines a series of recommendations to the various stakeholders:

1. Supermarkets should use their dominant position in banana supply chains responsibly, reflecting the true cost of production in their practices by paying a fair price to farmers and workers, as retailers do in other European countries. The retail price of bananas has increased in France, Italy and Germany by 10 per cent, 3.9 per cent and 7.2 per cent respectively .

2. Vince Cable, Secretary of State in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), should co-ordinate across government departments to investigate retailer pricing on bananas and evaluate its impact on the long-term interests of banana producers and UK consumers. Campaigners across the UK are also signing a petition to the Business Secretary to ask for action.

3. The Department for International Development (DFID) should ensure the UK’s positive impact on poverty among banana farmers and workers is strengthened by supporting initiatives that incentivise living wages and the payment of the cost of sustainable production in agricultural supply chains.

For more information please contact: eileen.maybin@fairtrade.org.uk/ 020 7440 7692