Consumers and campaigners across the UK are calling on Asda and Tesco to prove that banana farmers and workers in the developing world are not suffering as a result of supermarket price wars, by sourcing more Fairtrade bananas. Tens of thousands of messages asking them to make the switch are expected to be sent to Asda and Tesco supermarkets during November, when retailers typically negotiate supplier contracts for the year ahead.
Bananas are the UK’s favourite fruit – the UK public spends over £700m eating 5 billion of them a year – yet instead of making a decent living, many banana farmers that supply the UK are struggling to get by. For instance in Ecuador, one of the UK’s biggest suppliers, only 1 in 4 families working in the banana industry earns enough to take them above the poverty line.
The UK retail price of loose bananas has almost halved over the past 10 years, while the cost of producing them has doubled. Banana farmers and workers are paying the price for the nation's cheap fruit, with many trapped in an unrelenting cycle of poverty. But retailers who source their bananas as Fairtrade can assure their customers that despite retail price wars, farmers and workers producing the fruit continue to receive agreed, transparent Fairtrade prices and premiums.
Currently, one in three bananas sold in the UK is Fairtrade. Asda and Tesco are the focus of the public campaign as the two biggest sellers of bananas in the UK that still stock some non-Fairtrade bananas. In fact, both currently source less than 10% of their bananas on Fairtrade terms.
UK consumers care about the conditions faced by the farmers and workers who grow their bananas, and want an independent assurance that retailers are doing the right thing. More than eight in ten shoppers (including 85% of Asda shoppers and 84% of Tesco shoppers) say they would pay more for their bananas if the farmers and workers who produced them benefit as a result.
A recent survey by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that almost two thirds of UK shoppers don't think it is good enough for retail companies to say that they are ethical, they need to prove it. When it comes to farmers and workers getting a fair deal, shoppers say they trust independent third-party certification more than retailers' own claims, with Fairtrade being the label they trust most to ensure that farmers and workers get a fair deal.
Fairtrade is the only independent assurance that banana farmers are being paid a stable price, which aims to cover the cost of sustainable production and acts as a vital safety net when prices drop, as well as an extra Fairtrade Premium and fair contracts. Farmers can invest this additional amount as they choose, in their business or in social projects that benefit their community, such as schools, new roads and clean drinking water. Fairtrade also provides an independent assurance about working conditions and rights given to farmers and workers.
According to Alistair Smith from NGO BananaLink, banana workers "often work 10 to 12 hour days, six days a week... and still do not earn enough to meet their family’s basic needs. They regularly have to choose between food, schooling, rent and healthcare.”
But in a recent study of smallholder farms in Colombia, the main origin for all bananas sold in the UK, 96% of farmers said their economic situation had improved, on average by 34% since joining Fairtrade. 100% of workers employed on Fairtrade certified plantations in Colombia who were interviewed by researchers, stated that their quality of life was better under Fairtrade, with strong unionisation also being a factor.
Describing the poverty he experienced before his banana co-operative in Colombia became Fairtrade certified two years ago, Albeiro Alfonso Cantillo, known as 'Foncho', said: "We experienced very difficult times when we weren’t in Fairtrade. We didn’t have the resources to provide an education for my children and the banana business barely provided enough for basic meals... Thank God we are in the [Fairtrade] scheme because if we weren’t… we would always be making a loss.”
Cornelius Lynch, a banana farmer from St Lucia, said: “Fairtrade has proven to be our window of hope in this global environment....Without it we would be in desperate trouble.” Fellow St Lucian banana farmer, Stephen Best added, “Without Fairtrade the banana trade will collapse, social unrest and poverty will grow."
Michael Gidney, Chief Executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: "It seems absurd that bananas are the UK’s most popular fruit, yet many of the people who grow them are living in poverty. This isn’t what UK consumers want - they care about the conditions faced by the people who grow our food, and they want an independent assurance that retailers are doing the right thing. If Waitrose, Sainsbury's and the Co-operative can sell 100% Fairtrade bananas, then Asda and Tesco can do better than their current offering of less than 10% Fairtrade, and no Fairtrade in some stores. That’s why we’re supporting members of the public to send a message to Asda or Tesco, asking them to switch to Fairtrade bananas. It’s a simple action but by acting now, when retailers are negotiating their contracts for the year ahead, there’s a chance to make a significant difference to the lives of banana farmers and workers in the developing world, as well as their communities.”
Sending a message is simple – shoppers can head to fairtrade.org.uk/bananas and enter their details to email Asda and Tesco directly.
Globally, Fairtrade works with close to 25,000 banana plantation workers and small farmers across Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, the Windward Islands, Panama, Costa Rica, Ghana and Cameroon.
The Fairtrade Foundation's Make Bananas Fair campaign was launched earlier this year to put the issues facing banana farmers on the agenda of Government and retailers. More than 70,000 people signed a petition calling on the Government to step in on unfair banana pricing, over 50 MPs signed an early day motion in support of the campaign, and major supermarkets were prompted to report on what they are doing to support banana farmers. Business Secretary, Vince Cable acknowledged the need for retailers to treat their suppliers in a fair, sustainable way, but didn’t take any action on the issue, stating that he believes the market works because consumers get cheap bananas.
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For more information, images or interviews please contact Nicola Frame, Media & PR Manager for Fairtrade Foundation, on 020 7440 8597 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
The Fairtrade Foundation is an independent certification body which licenses the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on products which meet international Fairtrade standards. This independent consumer label appears on products to show that disadvantaged producers are getting a better deal from trade. Today, more than 1.3 million people – farmers and workers – across more than 70 developing countries benefit from the international Fairtrade system.
Over 4,500 products have been licensed to carry the FAIRTRADE Mark including coffee, tea, herbal teas, chocolate, cocoa, sugar, bananas, grapes, pineapples, mangoes, avocados, apples, pears, plums, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, satsumas, clementines, mandarins, lychees, coconuts, dried fruit, juices, smoothies, biscuits, cakes & snacks, honey, jams & preserves, chutney & sauces, rice, quinoa, herbs & spices, seeds, nuts & nut oil, wines, beers, rum, confectionary, muesli, cereal bars, yoghurt, ice-cream, flowers, sports balls, sugar body scrub and cotton products including clothing, homeware, cloth toys, cotton wool, olive oil, gold, silver and platinum.
Public awareness of the FAIRTRADE Mark continues to be high in 2013, at a level of 77%. Estimated retail sales of Fairtrade products in 2013 exceeded £1.7 billion, a 14% increase on sales of £1.53 billion in 2012.
 INCAE, Analysis of the Salary Structure in the Banana Industry in Ecuador, February 2012
 Typical retail price is 68p per kilo, compared with £1.08 in 2002 (which adjusted for inflation is equivalent to £1.40 today).
 Sainsbury's, Waitrose and The Co-operative source 100% of bananas as Fairtrade, other supermarkets source lower quantities.
 ICM online omnibus: nationally representative sample of 2,000 GB adults aged 18+, Feb 2014
 'Public views on ethical retail, commissioned by Department for Business Innovation and Skills. Ipsos MORI online omnibus, nationally representative sample of 2,257 UK adults aged 16+, Jun 2014
 64% trust slightly or a great deal, retailers' own claims that farmers and workers are getting a fair deal, compared with 82% for Fairtrade certified products and 70% for products carrying any independent certification. ICM online omnibus: nationally representative sample of 2,000 GB adults aged 18+, Oct 2014.
 Corporation for Rural Economic Development, Colombia (CODER), Feb 2014 (survey data from Feb-Mar 2013) www.fairtrade.net/fileadmin/user_upload/content/2009/resources/140330-Banana-Colombia-Fairtrade-Impact-Study-final.pdf