Make Bananas Fair
New campaign launches today.
Ethical Consumer is providing the research for a new campaign launched today by the Fairtrade Foundation.
The Make Bananas Fair campaign asks the UK public to help end the supermarket price wars, including a petition asking the government to urgently step in and investigate the impact of retailer pricing practices.
As part of the campaign, the Fairtrade Foundation commissioned Ethical Consumer to rank and rate supermarket banana supply chains.
The rating draws on three broad criteria: social, economic, and environmental good practice, with an added benchmark of transparency of information about their banana supply chains.
The research found that while The Co-operative, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, which all source 100 per cent Fairtrade bananas, emerge more positively than other supermarkets from the scoring, no retailer can afford to be complacent. The research reveals that when it comes to the economics of the supply chain, supermarkets need to initiate change which ensures that all banana farmers and workers are always paid sustainable costs of production and living wages, in order to deliver a truly fair and sustainable banana industry.
Lead researcher Heather Webb said, "This research was undertaken to help consumers identify supermarkets who are working towards creating a fair banana trade. The majority of the supermarkets surveyed are involved in initiatives to improve conditions in which bananas are grown, however, any progress made under these initiatives is ultimately undermined by the supermarkets' pricing practices.
For a long time there has been a massive gap between the cost to produce bananas and the price being paid in the supermarkets. This issue needs to be investigated to ensure all farmers and workers receive a fair deal."
Britain’s Bruising Banana Wars
The scorecard is part of a wider new report called 'Britain’s Bruising Banana Wars'. This report reveals that, in the past 10 years, the UK supermarket sector has almost halved the shelf price of loose bananas while the cost of producing them has doubled.
Consumers now typically pay 11p for a loose banana compared with 18p a decade ago, while a loose apple grown in the UK now costs 20p. Meanwhile living costs for banana farmers and workers in the three countries that provide 70 per cent of the UK’s bananas, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador, have rocketed – by 85 per cent, 350 per cent and 240 per cent respectively.
The report further exposes the real impact British supermarket price wars are having on banana farmers and workers and their families. The resulting drop in export prices for bananas in producing countries means an ever-tightening squeeze on what producers earn for their bananas. This, combined with escalating production and living costs, means many farmers' and workers’ standards of living have progressively worsened in the past decade.
“Small farmers and plantation workers are the collateral damage in supermarket price wars. The poorest people are bearing the cost of our cheap bananas and they have to work harder and harder as what they earn is worth less and less in their communities. As a result, a product that is worth billions of pounds in global trade relies on poverty-level income for the people who grow it,” says Fairtrade Foundation Chief Executive Michael Gidney.
The Fairtrade Foundation report argues that as bananas are the fourth most important food crop in the world and one of the most valuable agricultural commodities in global trade, it is wrong that they do not guarantee a sustainable living for all the people involved in producing and supplying the market.
“With my hand on my heart, the price that we get for our produce is not enough for us to sustain production over here. It is too low for us to have a good quality of life, or at least a decent one. We don’t see real profit from the effort we put in, it’s frustrating,” say Albeiro Alfonso Cantillo, nicknamed Foncho, the Colombian banana farmer who is now in the UK to spearhead the campaign on behalf of banana farmers globally.
The unrelenting downward pressure on banana prices has driven a shift in many banana producing countries towards job losses, the casualisation of labour and the marginalisation of smallholder producers. It makes it much harder for farmers and workers to achieve the improvements they badly need in wages, access to services like education and healthcare and improved housing, as well as environmental sustainability in banana production.
The report says intense price competition between supermarkets is preventing progress towards making the whole banana industry fair and outlines a series of recommendations to the various stakeholders. Britain’s Bruising Banana Wars urges:
1. Supermarkets to use their dominant position in banana supply chains responsibly, reflecting the true cost of production in their practices by paying a fair price to farmers and workers, as retailers do in other European countries. The retail price of bananas has increased in France, Italy and Germany by 10 per cent, 3.9 per cent and 7.2 per cent respectively.
2. Vince Cable, Secretary of State in The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), to co-ordinate across government departments to investigate retailer pricing on bananas and evaluate its impact on the long-term interests of banana producers and UK consumers. Campaigners across the UK are also signing a petition to the Business Secretary to ask for action.
3. The Department for International Development (DFID) to ensure the UK’s positive impact on poverty among banana farmers and workers is strengthened by supporting initiatives that incentivise living wages and payment of the cost of sustainable production in agricultural supply chains.
To download our research visit the Make Bananas Fair campaign page.
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