Bananas

Picture: Ngäbe Feliciana Quintero, COOBANA, Panama, ©James Rodríguez

Bananas are a supermarket staple, and many retailers have made it a priority to stock Fairtrade bananas in the produce section. This is especially evident in the UK, where one in four bananas sold carries the FAIRTRADE Mark, in Switzerland it is one in five.

Most of the world’s banana exports come from Latin America, which is also the home of the majority of Fairtrade banana producers. In bananas, Fairtrade certifies both small producer organizations and plantations that employ hired labour. As the majority of bananas are grown on large plantations, working with hired labour organizations allows Fairtrade to make a larger impact on the banana industry.

Fairtrade Banana Facts

  • Fairtrade bananas are cultivated by 11,600 small-scale farmers and 10,100 plantation workers, which are represented in 123 producer organizations, according to the 2015 Fairtrade Monitoring and Impact Report.

  • Overall, farmers and workers in 11 countries are involved in Fairtrade banana cultivation. Only two of these countries, Cameroon and Ghana are located outside of Latin America and the Caribbean.

  • 89 percent of bananas sold on Fairtrade terms come from the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.

  • In 2013-2014 468,200 metric tonnes of bananas were sold on Fairtrade terms and Fairtrade farmers and plantation workers received more than €19 million in Fairtrade Premium payments.

  • Overall, 35,600 hectares (49,444 football fields) were under Fairtrade banana certification.

Fairtrade Impact for Banana Farmers and Workers

The availability of bananas on supermarket shelves is a great opportunity for Fairtrade producers to get their produce to customers, who responded in 2014 by buying over 460,000 metric tonnes of Fairtrade bananas. Additionally, supermarkets and food companies have committed to purchase Fairtrade bananas as part of their strategies for sustainable sourcing.

As a result, certified farms and plantations sell a high percentage (around 60 percent in 2013-14) of their total production volume on Fairtrade terms. This translates into more Fairtrade Premium money for farmers' and workers' organizations to invest. Smallholders invested more than half of their Premium in business or organizational development, production and processing. On plantations most of the Premium payments were invested in support for workers, such as housing and education for them and their families.

Overall, Fairtrade has had a positive impact on job security and the conditions of employment for plantation workers, while smallholder farmers generally see their income rise after having been certified by Fairtrade.

To learn more about Fairtrade's impact, have a look at our research and impact reports.

Challenges for Small-scale Banana Farmers and Workers

Fairtrade bananas have a stable market thanks to socially-conscious consumers and companies. However, all farmers and workers continue to be affected by the low prices of bananas often found in supermarkets. These low prices – driven by intense competition between supermarkets often selling below cost – put the squeeze on banana farmers and plantation workers.

Furthermore, Fairtrade banana producers face challenges as a result of climate change and extreme weather events. For example, El Niño poses risks to production volumes in Peru and Ecuador, while the Dominican Republic was affected by a drought in 2014.

Even with strong sales, Fairtrade often only has a stabilizing effect on income. Since the prices for inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides and packaging materials have increased sharply, small farmers and plantations face rising production costs. On the other hand, very little of the sales price of a banana actually makes it back to farmers and workers, and in some cases even the benefits of Fairtrade are not enough to pull both groups completely out of poverty.

That’s why Fairtrade works with all players in the banana supply chain – including producers, businesses, industry coalitions, and NGOs – to increase income for farmers and workers to create a better balance in the distribution of value across the banana sector.

General Facts about Bananas

  • Bananas are considered the largest herb in the world. They grow in a bunch on a tree, but they do not have seeds – new trees must be planted using the shoots or suckers of an existing plant.

  • Nearly all exported bananas are of a single variety – Cavendish bananas. Gros Michel bananas were the dominant bananas on the market until a disease wiped them out in the 1960s – a threat the Cavendish banana is facing as well.

  • Bananas ripen quickly. As a result they are shipped in refrigerated ships to prevent them from ripen before they arrive in the supermarket.

  • India, China and the Philippines are the world’s leading banana producers. However, almost all their produce is consumed domestically, which makes Latin America and the Caribbean region the primary source for exported bananas.

  • Useful tips for the inside of a banana peel: use it to soothe a mosquito bite or polish your shoes.

Recent Fairtrade News on Bananas

 

Change for the better in Dominican banana industry

29 October 2015

An opinion piece by Peter Gaynor, Executive Director of Fairtrade Ireland and the Chair of Fairtrade International’s Workers’ Rights Advisory Committee. Seeing black South Africans queueing for days to vote for the first time....

[more]
 

Peruvian Banana Farmers Adept at Adaptation

15 May 2015

Organic banana farmers in Peru are seeing the effect of climate change and beginning the process of adapting with help from Kaufland, a German chain of super markets, and Fairtrade International.

[more]
 

Bananas Lend Stability in Post-Conflict Colombia

17 April 2014

For more than a generation, banana farmers and workers in the regions of Urabá and Magdalena, Colombia, have been seeking one thing: stability. Following the 2006 peace process that brought an end to major conflicts in Colombia,...

[more]
 
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Buying and Selling Fairtrade

Fairtrade products are sold in over 130 countries. For more information on Fairtrade near you, visit Fairtrade Near You or select one of the countries in blue on the map below. If you’re interested in selling Fairtrade or sourcing Fairtrade products in your country, see our information about selling Fairtrade.

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