From Field to Market: Banana Experts Set Fairtrade Direction
Eduardo Bluhm, FLO product manager for bananas, smiled thinking back to the two days of meetings. Gathering representatives from all levels of the banana trade was not an easy task, and bringing them together in one room had the potential for some intense dialogue.
“Individually, banana farmers have demands and challenges that differ from current market trends driving down prices. Producers need a fair price for their product, but traders and retailers strive to compete in the market,” Bluhm said after the meetings.
On July 13-14, seventeen people from throughout the banana industry gathered in Bonn for the first FLO Product Advisory Council (PAC) for bananas. PAC consultations help staff at FLO gather market and product intelligence that supports global product strategies for Fairtrade.
“You bring the workers, the small producer, the plantation owner, the exporter, the importers, the supermarkets, the advocacy groups, you bring them all to the table and views, proposals and new ideas are shared,” Bluhm said.
Gathered together for the PAC meetings, the attendees had the opportunity to learn about the challenges faced by each other. The PAC serves as a platform for discussing important topics that have a tremendous impact on all involved.
“Take, for example, the use of herbicides on banana farms. We have a number of different views and we look at how this subject impacts the worker, the farmer, the environment, the costs of production, the marketing and the confidence in the Fairtrade mark,” Bluhm said. “Even though each participant came with a portion of knowledge the others hadn’t considered before, we had great outcome and agreement.”
“It was interesting and informative and we learned a lot about the supply chain,” said Sarah Blanford, a technologist from Sainsbury’s, a grocery store chain in the UK that sources 100% Fairtrade bananas. “The key, when we came to the conclusion, is what will enter the new standards and influence future decisions.”
Throughout the rest of the year, members of the Banana PAC will meet in conference calls and online to continue discussing points raised at the meetings and advise FLO on relevant industry topics.
Bluhm smiled again, “We had great outcomes from the first PAC meeting and we need to keep the momentum to achieve even more. Now the real work begins.”
For more information on the banana trade, visit our product page for bananas at http://www.fairtrade.net/bananas.html.