However, the organisation acknowledged there were areas which it could improve including:
“continuing to work towards living wages for workers, improving knowledge of Fairtrade and encouraging use of the Fairtrade Premium to benefit communities, women and youth. There is also more to be done to support vulnerable groups of workers, improve productivity for farmers and increase cost transparency.”
The Co-op, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose only sell Fairtrade bananas, while M&S mostly sells Fairtrade-certified bananas.
An alternative banana certification to Fairtrade is one created by the Rainforest Alliance (RA). This seems to be the preferred choice of many of the UK retailers, in particular Asda, Aldi, Lidl and Tesco who have all committed to selling RA-certified bananas.
RA certification is awarded to farms that comply with a set of standards that are set by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). Critics of the RA certification argue that it does not guarantee a minimum wage to producers, nor does it ban many of the pesticides known to cause harm to the workers who apply them.
It is reported that RA has certified over 1600 banana farms (compared to 21,700 banana farmers and plantation workers participating in Fairtrade) and one of its largest supporters, Chiquita, has certified all of its farms in Costa Rica and plans to certify its remaining farms in central America.
One of the founding reasons why the Rainforest Alliance developed its standard was to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods. However, an academic study of Chiquita’s RA-certified farms, published in 2016, stated:
“Among the different environmental principles of the SAN standards investigated in this study, the results indicate that there is not a difference between RA-certified farms and non-certified farms … The risk with the current RA label is that environmentally concerned consumers make choices they would not normally do when buying fruits and other products branded with this label.”
In 2016, Rainforest Alliance-certified farms were criticised by Oxfam Germany for violating workers’ rights and environmental issues. RA has since been working with Oxfam Germany to correct the issues and ensure the farms certified meet their standards.
There are several small farmers’ associations in the Dominican Republic, Peru and Ecuador, and medium- or large-scale plantations in the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Ecuador that are also certified organic. Pest problems are tackled using a variety of non-chemical methods. But most organic production comes from areas not infected by the devastating black sigatoka (black leaf-streak) fungal disease.