When I first began purchasing bananas for the Albert’s Organics in 2001 Fair Trade was a new concept in banana sales and only represented a small fraction of the bananas business. Since bananas are one of our number one sales items I thought it was important to have a closer relationship with our producers. I soon realized that purchasing a Fair Trade banana was one way to become directly involved, benefit those growers and offer unique and valuable product in the banana marketplace.
My first trip to Ecuador and Peru was in December 2006 and as I traveled south into the banana growing areas I witnessed increasing signs of poverty. Many homes had no running water or electricity with construction of bamboo or makeshift metal. Bereft of windows and doors they exposed their inhabitants to the street. I was clearly not in Kansas anymore! That first trip was a real eye opener in terms of the living condition of the people who grow one of our most cherished and popular fruit!
During that and subsequent trips I was honored to work with several grower associations that represent hundreds of small banana producing families and help them bring their bananas to the international market.
Many of these producer-families often farm a mere 5-10 hectares. These small farms produce 10-20 cartons of bananas each week. Bananas can sell for as little as $5.50 per box which leaves (you do the math) very little for an entire family to live on.
Organic and Fair Trade bananas offer an alternative of stability in a landscape of low prices and poverty that dominates the banana growing regions. Because of the stable minimum prices and the Fair Trade premiums paid on each box, the grower associations can provide real social benefits that would otherwise be unavailable and out of reach in these communities. Those “benefits” include things we take for granted such as: bathrooms with running water, health-care and insurance, first aid supplies, preventive medical research and nutritional education. They can also use the premiums to upgrade their infrastructure and soil fertility in order to grow better bananas.
As I returned year after year I had evidence that the Fair Trade premium is making a tangible difference in the lives of our banana producers.
Fair Trade Certification empowers farmers and farm workers to lift themselves out of poverty by investing in their farms and communities, protecting the environment, and developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace.
Albert’s and UNFI are proud to represent these growers and increase the number of Fair Trade items and cartons that we sell. When we buy and sell the fair Trade Label we are really selling hope and prosperity for small producers far away. Enjoy your bananas, encourage everyone to buy Fair Trade. It makes a difference!