Bananas

Overview

  • Bananas are the fourth most widely consumed food globally after rice, wheat, and corn. Bananas are grown in 130 countries worldwide - more than any other fruit crop.
  • The five leading exporting countries are India (26.2%), Philippines (9%), China (8.2%), Ecuador (7.6%), and Brazil (7.2%), according to 2009 Food and Agriculture Organization statistics.
  • Almost 100 million metric tons of bananas are consumed worldwide every year, of which about 15 million are exported.
  • Canadians eat approximately 3 billion bananas a year, and in Canadian supermarkets, bananas account for over 10% of total sales in the produce section and 1% of total sales.

Corporations

  • Five corporations control around 80% of the sales on the banana import market worldwide.
  • The two largest are U.S.-based corporations Dole Food Company and Chiquita Brands International, which control about 25% each of the market globally.
  • The three other major corporations that control the banana trade are Fresh Del Monte Produce (Chilean-based IAT Group) with a 15% share, Bonita Banana (Ecuadorian-based Exportadora Bananera Noboa, part of the conglomerate Gropu Noboa) with a 9% share, and Fyffes (Irish-based) with a 7% share.

Chemicals

  • Bananas are the most heavily sprayed food crop in the world.
  • Four of the chemicals used are classified as ‘extremely hazardous’ by the World Health Organization,and three organophosphates are banned in the UK.
  • Most corporations spend more money on agrochemicals than on worker wages.
  • In addition to the chemical sprays, banana bunches are wrapped in insecticide-coated plastic while still on the trees to prevent against disease.
  • To ensure high yields, intensive production methods are used which result in toxic chemical residue remaining in soil, water, sediment and fish in the areas adjacent to plantations.

Workers

  • In Latin America, workers on plantations can earn as little as 1% of the final price of the banana.
  • Hours of work can be as long as 12-14 hours of unpaid overtime. Chemical sprays can gravely affect the health of workers, the surrounding communities and the environment.
  •  Additionally, workers may risk their jobs or even their lives if they attempt to form trade unions. 
  • Women often face gender-specific abuse, including discriminatory employment policies, compulsory pregnancy tests before hiring, limited access to maternity leave and sexual harassment.

Why Fair Trade?

Economic stability

  • Farmers who produce Fairtrade certified bananas are guaranteed a Fairtrade minimum price to cover the costs of sustainable production
  • A Fairtrade Premium of US$ 1 per 18.14kg-box of bananas to invest in projects in their communities

Economic empowerment

  • Profits must be equally distributed among the members of the cooperative or association
  • Workers have the right to establish or join an independent union
  • Salaries must be equal to or higher than the regional average or than the minimum wage

Community building

  • All members of the producer organization must have a voice in the decision-making process and in the group organization
  • The Premium must not be used to cover ongoing operating expenses, but rather to improve living and working conditions

Basic rights

  • Forced labour and child labour of children of 15 years and under is prohibited.
  • Work for children over 15 must not interfere with their education
  • Health and safety measures must be established in order to avoid work-related injuries

Environmental sustainability

  • Use of certain pesticides and herbicides are prohibited even on non-organic bananas
  • Measures are taken to mitigate damage to native vegetation — a challenge on single-crop plantations

Case Studies – Examples of Fairtrade Premium Use

Windward Islands Famer’s Association (WINFA): Dominica, St Lucia, and St Vincent

  • Dominica
    • A new pre-school was built adjoining the primary school in Bense
  • St Lucia
    • Farmers and workers receive an annual healthcare allowance of up to US$370 to cover GP visits, medicines, and costs of surgery or other treatment
    • A water project supplies clean water to120 villagers in Rosalie
  • St Vincent
    • A new school bus was purchased for children in North Windward
    • Improvement of feeder roads and bridges to give banana farmers better access to their fields and benefit all farmers located along these roads
    • Purchase of two computers for a secondary school in Overland

Further Information

Websites

Books/Literature

  • Bananeras: Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America, by Dana Frank, 2005, South End Press
  • Banana Wars: Power, Production, and History in the Americas (American Encounters/Global Interactions), edited by Steve Striffler and Mark Moberg, 2003, Duke University Press Books
  • Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World, by Peter Chapman, 2009, Canongate U.S.
  • Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World, by Dan Koeppel. 2008, Plume; Reprint edition
  • The World Banana Economy, 1970-84, by the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1987, Food & Agriculture Organization
  • World Banana Economy, 1985-2002: Fao Commodity Studies #1, by Pedro Arias, 2004, Food & Agriculture Organization
  • Banana Wars: The Anatomy of a Trade Dispute, edited by Timothy Edward Josling and Thomas Geoffrey Taylor, 2003, Oxford University Press
  • Banana Split: How EU Policies Divide Global Producers, by David Vanzetti, Veronica Chau and Santiago Fernandez De Cordoba, 2006, United Nations Publications
  • The Banana Dispute: An Economic and Legal Analysis, edited by Fritz Breuss, Stefan Griller and Erich Vranes, 2003, Springer
  • Smart Alliance: How a Global Corporation and Environmental Activists Transformed a Tarnished Brand, by J. Gary Taylor and Patricia J. Scharlin, 2004, Yale University Press
  • The Banana: Empires, Trade Wars, and Globalization, by James Wiley, 2002,University of Nebraska Press
  • Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States, by John Soluri, 2006, University of Texas Press

Films and Documentaries

Sources

1 “Banana: Market” United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) (2009). Retrieved from: http://www.unctad.org/infocomm/anglais/banana/market.htm
2 “Bananas” Fair Trade International. n.d. Retrieved from: http://www.fairtrade.net/bananas.0.html
3 “Banana Split” Shebandowan Films. n.d. Retrieved from:
http://www.shebafilms.com/?page_id=38
4 “Bananas” Fair Trade International. n.d. Retrieved from:
http://www.fairtrade.net/bananas.html
5 “Banana Companies” Banana Link. n.d. Retrieved from: http://www.bananalink.org.uk/content/view/61/21/lang,en/
6 “Banana Companies” Banana Link. n.d.
7 “The Top Banana” Good Films. n.d. Retrieved from: http://goodfilm.org/film/d/14/The+Top+Banana
8 “Pesticide Use” Banana Link. n.d. Retrieved from: http://www.bananalink.org.uk/content/view/148/90/lang,en/
9 “Pesticide Use” Banana Link. n.d.
10 “Environmental impacts: How are bananas grown?” Banana Link. n.d. Retrieved from: http://www.bananalink.org.uk/content/view/148/90/lang,en/
11 “Pesticide Use” Banana Link. n.d.
12 “Working conditions: Long hours and low wages” Banana Link. n.d. Retrieved from: http://www.bananalink.org.uk/content/view/79/39/lang,en/
13 “Bananas” Fair Trade International. n.d.
14 “Trade union repression” Banana Link. n.d. Retrieved from: http://www.bananalink.org.uk/content/view/176/123/lang,en/
15 “Take action for International Women's Day” Banana Link. (2011) Retrieved from: http://www.bananalink.org.uk/content/view/537/1/lang,en/
16 “Bananas” Fair Trade International. n.d.
17 “The Appeal of Fair Trade Bananas” Good. (2011) Retrieved from: http://www.good.is/post/the-appeal-of-fair-trade-bananas/
18 “Windward Islands Famer’s Association (WINFA): Dominica, St Lucia, and St Vincent” The Fair Trade Foundation. (2010) Retrieved from:
http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/producers/bananas/winfa_2/default.aspx