Banana Producers Seek Fair Trade Practices at World Banana Forum


The associations of banana producers and exporters from Latin America and the Caribbean, representing Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Peru, advocate for adopting "FairTrade" practices. They hope retailers will embrace this methodology to calculate a fair price that factors in environmental sustainability efforts and fair wages. This initiative is set to be discussed at the Fourth Global Conference of the World Banana Forum (WBF), taking place in Rome from March 11 to 14, 2024. The goal is to ensure that the burdens and costs of sustainability do not fall solely on producers.

Since 2020, banana producers and exporters have faced significant challenges. These include a dramatic increase in input costs such as cardboard, freight, and fertilizers, which do not reach pre-pandemic levels. Other hurdles include the severe threat of the FOC R4T, increased insecurity, and the need to adapt production practices to the increasing demands of multiple certification schemes required by supermarkets. These schemes are often based on European Union policies that need more understanding of non-European realities. In recent years, several initiatives, and projects under development organizations such as GIZ and IDH have emerged in banana-producing countries of the region. These initiatives seek to establish mechanisms to achieve and verify compliance with the living wage parallel to those existing in the countries according to their rules. However, these efforts generate additional costs for producers and overlook regulations, local practices, and the official powers of national authorities.

The banana export sector is over-certified, meaning banana plantations must comply with many standards and initiatives of supermarkets and third parties, such as IDH, which cover five production areas. Despite the challenges, producers and exporters of the region have repeatedly proposed to retailers and other organizations the adoption of the price calculation methodology and procedures established by Fair Trade. This proposal addresses retailers' need for a genuine commitment to sustainability and shared responsibility.

To date, Aldi Süd and Sainsbury have made public commitments to using Fairtrade prices and/or cost calculations to guide their purchasing practices. However, most retailers remain passive and reluctant to adopt sustainable practices.

A permanent Committee will be established within the WBF, with the participation of committed retailers, producers, and exporters. The purpose of this committee is to rationalize and harmonize methodologies and certifications. A major problem for the production and export of bananas to the European market is the fragmentation and overlap of certification standards, which generate unsustainable administrative and economic burdens for banana producers.