Britain’s supermarket price wars are affecting growers who receive the Fairtrade premium.
Over the past 10 years, the price of bananas in the UK has halved, while the cost of production to the farmers has almost doubled. Supermarkets in the UK now buy and sell bananas so cheaply that many of the farmers and workers who grow them are being trapped in poverty.
Research commissioned by the Fairtrade Foundation showed that people in the UK typically pay 11p for a loose banana compared with 18p a decade ago, while a loose apple grown in the UK now costs 20p.
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,” said Foundation chief executive Michael Gidney.
To accompany the report, the Foundation commissioned the research co-operative Ethical Consumer to score retail practice in a supermarket scorecard. Retailers were ranked using a methodology that draws on the three pillars of sustainability: social, economic and environmental good practice, with an added benchmark of transparency of information about their banana supply chains.
Co-operative Food stores were ranked the highest with a score of 90/100, while Sainsbury’s and Waitrose followed closely. While those retailers all source 100 per cent Fairtrade bananas, the Foundation said no retailer can afford to be complacent.
The ECRA research revealed 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.
The Foundation report argued 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,” said Albeiro Alfonso Cantillo, nicknamed Foncho, the Colombian banana farmer who is now in the UK to spearhead the Make Bananas Fair campaign on behalf of banana farmers globally.
Foncho is also the first signatory on the petition to the government business secretary Vince Cable MP. Foncho and four other banana producers from Costa Rica, Colombia, the Windward Islands and Ghana will be taking part in hundreds of events across the UK to draw attention to the plight of banana growers and speak about the positive impact Fairtrade continues to have for their families and communities.
• Find out more about the events, and sign the petition: foncho.fairtrade.org.uk