Millions of people worldwide depend on the production, processing, and sale of produce for their livelihoods, incomes, and for food security. This includes many small farmers in the Global South.
Of the hundred types of produce grown and harvested in the Global South, the banana is a staple food for millions of people and the favourite fruit in our grocery basket.
From small family farms to large commercial plantations, the banana industry provides employment for thousands of people in Latin America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and West Africa. It generates vital foreign exchange earnings that governments depend on to improve health, education, infrastructure and other social services. The Windward Islands, for example, traditionally earn around a fifth of their total export earnings from bananas alone. For Ecuador and Costa Rica, the figures are around 9% and 8% respectively. In addition, the industry employs thousands of people in distribution networks and supermarkets worldwide.
The trade in bananas is a cornerstone of many countries' economies, but the social problems in the industry are many and complex. Reports about problems in the banana industry often highlight the woefully poor situation of workers: low wages, precarious employment, restrictions on the right to organize themselves and the handling of unhealthy and environmentally hazardous chemicals without adequate protection, to name a few. For smallholder farmers dependent on growing bananas for a living, challenges abound too – with rising costs of production but stagnation in prices, and the severe impacts of changing climate and weather patterns making production unpredictable and unsustainable.
Fairtrade works to support both banana farmers and workers employed on plantations. Our vision is to work with the banana trade to create more value for producers and ensure they get a decent price and decent pay for the hard labour that goes into growing our favorite fruit. Bananas carrying the FAIRTRADE Mark have been produced by small farmer organizations or plantations that meet Fairtrade social, economic and environmental standards. The Standards include protection of workers’ rights and the environment and payment of the Fairtrade Minimum Price and an additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in business or community projects. Despite success in building the global market for Fairtrade bananas, severe challenges continue to cripple the trade.