The human cost of cheap bananas

10 November 2015 (Brussels) - New report shows how increasing market power and Unfair Trading Practices of European supermarkets affect banana small farmers and plantation workers

 Banana workers and small farmers in developing countries are exposed to toxic agro-chemicals, earn poverty level wages and work in a climate of fear, reveals the report “Banana value chains in Europe and the consequences of Unfair Trading Practices” published today by Banana Link and the Fair Trade Advocacy Office FTAO. The report also shows how European supermarkets contribute to this situation by engaging in Unfair Trading Practices. (UTPs).

The banana supply chain has long been a symbol of injustices in the global trade market. For instance, since 2001 banana wholesale prices have fallen by almost 25%, whilst retailers have increased their share of the banana value to around 40%.The same period has seen significant increases in both production and living costs. Food, health, education and other living costs have rocketed, for example, by as much as 278% in the Dominican Republic.

“Around 40% of the profits on bananas are kept by the retailer, whilst workers receive only 0.7 to 1%. This barely meets the costs of subsistence. It is certainly not a living wage, nor decent work, as defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO)”, says Iris Munguia, Representative of COLSIBA (Coordinating Body of Latin American Banana and Agro-industrial Unions).

“The imbalance of power in the banana supply chain and Unfair Trading Practices of supermarkets come at a high price”, says Jacqui Mackay, UK National Coordinator of Make Fruit Fair! from Banana Link. “This generates and amplifies significant negative social and environmental impacts in most banana producing countries, including the denial of basic human rights, gender discrimination, a failure to earn living wages, and long working hours.”

For decades a few multinational companies have dominated the banana market, negatively affecting the lives of workers and farmers. Now, the power has shifted to the supermarkets. “Concentration in the European retail market has rapidly increased in recent years and this will continue. In Germany only four supermarket chains dominate 85 per cent of the market.”, says Franziska Humbert, Policy Advisor Labour Rights and CSR at Oxfam Deutschland. “Supermarkets use their growing buying power to push prices down below sustainable levels.”

The European Commission already acknowledged the prevalence of UTPs and will decide at the end of this year whether to propose stronger regulation or not. There is now a window of opportunity in the European Union policy process to tackle Unfair Trading Practices in the food supply chains”, says Sergi Corbalán, Executive Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office FTAO.50.000 European citizens have signed the Make Fruit Fair! petition urging the Commissioner Bieńkowska to make a legislative proposal.

The report is based on interviews of more than sixty actors from the banana industry in several Latin American countries and a survey conducted in Costa Rica in August 2015. It reveals several UTPs like one-sided clauses in contracts with producers and exporters that lead to cancellations and rejections of orders on dubious grounds.

It documents market data both at European level but also focuses on the specific markets of the United Kingdom, Portugal, Malta, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Latvia and Romania.

Notes for editors

  • The Make Fruit Fair! Campaign is a global consortium of 19 partners from the European Union, Cameroon, Colombia, Ecuador and the Windward Islands - coordinated by Oxfam Germany. More information is available at
  • The report Banana value chains in Europe and the consequences of Unfair Trading Practices sets out the main findings of research commissioned by the Make Fruit Fair campaign that investigated how banana value chains in Europe operate. The research also looks at UTPs between fruit buyers in Europe and banana producers in exporting countries, their consequences on farmers, workers and consumers, and the relationship with pressure on prices in European markets. It is available to download at:
  • An EU policy briefing document is available to download at
  • Recent photos of banana and pineapple production in Costa Rica are available at The photos are from Feedback ( who undertook field research in Costa Rica for the report. Please feel free to use any of these photos, credited to Feedback.
  • The Make Fruit Fair petition signatures will be handed over to the EC at 11am Tuesday 10 November at Berlaymont Building, Wetstraat / Rue de la Loi 200, 1000 Brussels - photographers are welcome to attend. Photos of the petition hand over will be made available shortly afterwards.

Media contacts

Sergi Corbalán

Executive Director

Fair Trade Advocacy Office

Brussels, Belgium

+32 (0) 2 543 19 23

Jacqui Mackay

National Co-ordinator

Banana Link

United Kingdom

+44 (0)1603 765670

Franziska Humbert

Policy Advisor Labour Rights and CSR

Oxfam Deutschland e.V.

+49-171-212 41 06

New Sustainable Development Goals and Fair Trade: our preliminary analysis





25 September 2015 (Brussels) – The Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) welcomes the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and encourages governments to partner up with the Fair Trade movement for the implementation phase.


Today, world leaders are gathering at the three-day United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Summit 2015 in New York for the adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


"For the first time, the United Nations have agreed on a series of shared objectives that will apply to all, eliminating the old division between North and Southern countries. It makes us all responsible for the planet we inhabit and respectful of all its populations. That is, in itself, already an improvement compared to the old Millennium Development Goals” said Sergi Corbalán, FTAO Executive Director.



Of the new set of 17 goals, the FTAO particularly welcomes the commitment to promote sustainable production and consumption (Goal 12). Every day, we see the difference that sustainable production – from fair prices to proper labour conditions – makes for marginalised producers and workers. We also acknowledge the importance of making consumers aware of the impact of their consumption’s decisions. The Fair Trade movement looks forward to working with governments, private sector actors and other stakeholders to make this a global reality by 2030.



Moreover, we are also pleased with the recognition of the role that the private sector can play in the implementation of the new SDGs. The success of Fair Trade shows how the private sector can be a fundamental driver of poverty reduction and sustainable development. Yet private sector must not be understood as governments working with large companies only. Organised producer groups, such as small-scale farmer cooperatives, should become key partners for governments in practical implementation of the new Agenda 2030.



Multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable development will be indispensable to implement the SDGs. Fair Trade is an excellent example of a partnership where many stakeholders around the world and at different stages along the supply chain come together to ensure market access for disadvantaged producers and workers, guarantee sustainable livelihoods, respect labour standards, phase out child labour and encourage environmentally-sustainable farming and production practices. Our experience is that multi-stakeholder partnerships are also fruitful when the voice of the weaker actors is properly heard, as a recent report[1] from the Fairtrade Foundation shows.



Partnerships with local and regional authorities have also proven to be an effective way to create awareness and increase the support to Fair Trade. The recent International Fair Trade Towns Campaign “Bristol Declaration”[2] is an example of how the experience of local and regional authorities to engage in Fair Trade can be catalysed in favour of the new goals’ implementation.



Yet despite these interesting prospects, we also have concerns. Goal 17 seems to enshrine trade liberalisation as the golden solution. Trade is not presented as a strategy for the improvement of livelihoods, but rather as an end in itself. Together with many civil society partners, the FTAO co-founded the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance, which calls on governments to put the people and planet at the heart of their trade policies. We need to make sure that trade rules and practices do not negatively impact on people’s perspectives for sustainable livelihoods. We also need more transparent and fair supply chains, as well as minimum social and environmental standards to be implemented and controlled. Governments should also promote the uptake of Fair Trade practices by implementing enabling public policy environments in support of Fair Trade.



Overall, we welcome the new set of goals, and we will contribute to make sure that the means and partnerships to achieve them will meet the challenges of promoting sustainable livelihoods within the planetary boundaries.



“We call on world governments to seize this opportunity of the implementation of the new goals to strengthen their cooperation with the Fair Trade movement at all levels.” stated Sergi Corbalán.




Background information



The Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) speaks out for Fair Trade and Trade Justice with the aim to improve the livelihoods of marginalised producers and workers in the South. The FTAO is a joint initiative of Fairtrade International, the World Fair Trade Organization-Global and the World Fair Trade Organization-Europe. More information under:



Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks greater equity in international trade. Since its beginning, the Fair Trade movement has been contributing to sustainable development by offering better conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalised producers and workers, as well as environmental protection. It has been working for a sustainable world where people can escape poverty and enjoy decent work without harming the earth’s essential ecosystems and resources; where women and girls are afforded equal rights and equal opportunities. The vision of the Fair Trade movement is ‘a world in which justice and sustainable development are at the heart of trade structures and practices so that everyone, through their work, can maintain a descent and dignified livelihood and develop their full human potential’.



[1]A seat at the table? Ensuring Smallholder farmers are heard in Public-private partnerships. Fairtrade Foundation, September 2015. Available from:

[2] Bristol Resolution “Take action in your Fair Trade Town”. Available from:


EU takes important step for Fair Trade, but long path ahead for all trade to be fair

14 October 2015 (Brussels) – The European Commission has published today the new EU Trade and Investment Strategy. The EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has unveiled a series of new initiatives to support uptake of Fair Trade at a Fair Trade breakfast that has taken place earlier in the day at the European Parliament. The Fair Trade movement warmly welcomes the new EC pro-active approach on Fair Trade and looks forward to working together with the European Union towards making all trade fair.

The EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström launched today the new EU Trade and Investment Strategy “Trade for all: Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy” and stated that the new EU trade agenda will “not only project out interests but also our values”.

                                                                                                                Dialogue at breakfast

                       Dialogue amongst participants during the Fair Trade breakfast at the European Parliament (14 October 2015)

                                         For picture with higher resolution click here

The Commission acknowledges in the new EU trade policy blueprint that Fair Trade contributes to developing more sustainable trade opportunities for small producers in third countries. It also identifies a list of new pro-active initiatives the EC will take, such as supporting EU delegations in promoting Fair Trade among small producers in the Global South or putting in place a ‘EU City for Fair and Ethical Trade’ award. The Fair Trade movement welcomes the recognition by the Commission that comprehensive strategy to make trade fair must necessarily involve unlocking the power of citizens, businesses, small producers, local authorities, with a smart combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches.

                                                                                                            DSC 0378

                                            Fair Trade breakfast at the European Parliament (14 October 2015)

                                                                  For picture with higher resolution click here

We thank Commissioner Malmström for the open dialogue with the Fair Trade movement and the various concrete initiatives in support of Fair Trade announced in the new EU Trade Strategy”, stated Sergi Corbalán, Executive Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office. The Fair Trade movement welcomes the recognition that “trade should not be an end in itself” and calls on the European Union to implement the new EU trade agenda in a way that puts people and the planet first, as called for by the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance. It also welcomes the commitment to apply transparency at all stages of the negotiating cycle of all trade negotiations.


Chair of the EP International Trade Committee addressing participants of the the Fair Trade breakfast at the European Parliament (14 October 2015)

                                                                For picture with higher resolution click here

Marginalised producers and workers must have seat at the table when governments negotiate trade deals, which can have positive but also negative consequences on their livelihoods.“Phasing out unfair trade is a finish line that is still far. Let´s run this marathon together” concluded Sergi Corbalán.

Click here to read the FTAO position paper “An innovative EU approach in support of Fair Trade practices in the new EU Trade & Investment Strategy” of July 2015. 

         Linda  Cecilia edited

Chair of the EP Development Committee and Fair Trade Working Group Linda McAvan and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström keynote speech at the Fair Trade breakfast at the European Parliament (14 October 2015)

                                                                For picture with higher resolution click here



The Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) speaks out for Fair Trade and Trade Justice with the aim to improve the livelihoods of marginalised producers and workers in the South. The FTAO is a joint initiative of Fairtrade International, the World Fair Trade Organization-Global and the World Fair Trade Organization-Europe.


Sergi Corbalán | | Tel: +32 (0)2 54 31 92 3

Fair Trade Advocacy Office / Village Partenaire - bureau 1 | 15 rue Fernand Bernierstraat | 1060 Brussels – Belgium



Big deal in the big apple

by Marike De Peña, Chair of Fairtrade International and CLAC

25 September 2015 (Mao, Dominican Republic) - Even in an increasingly connected world, it’s still a long way from the Dominican Republic to New York. The distance between them can be measured not just in air miles but in the striking differences in poverty, job prospects, life expectancy, infant mortality and a host of other inequalities. From where I’m sitting, in one of the country’s most deprived areas not far from the border with Haiti, the Big Apple seems like another planet. But it’s here, at the Banelino banana co-operative I co-founded nearly twenty years ago, and in countless other small-scale farming operations around the world, that the impacts of decisions made in New York this weekend will be most keenly felt.

I’m full of hope that by the end of the summit on Sunday evening, the gap - big as it is - might have narrowed slightly. The world’s leaders, from President Obama to Ban Ki Moon, are gathering at the United Nations to agree the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - a new global plan of action for people, planet and prosperity aimed at ending extreme poverty by 2030. Even the Pope is in town to give the SDGs his blessing.

The SDGs are a big deal for the 400 small-scale farmers and their families who make up the Banelino cooperative. Not to mention the other 500 million small-scale farmers and one billion agricultural workers who supply seventy percent of the world’s food. Yet as is so often the case, the voices of those who are most directly affected by poverty will not be the ones you’ll hear amid the back-slapping and grandstanding at the UN. That’s why Fairtrade will be present at the summit to make sure the farmers are heard and that they play a leading role in bringing about a more equal, just and sustainable society. We can’t take all 1.5 million Fairtrade farmers and workers to New York with us, but we can make sure they aren’t forgotten. We made a great start by having our position officially recognised by the UN back in July.

If the 17 SDGs are fully implemented, they represent a huge opportunity for farmers and workers all over the world to build up enjoy a better future. They cover issues such as decent pay and conditions for plantation workers, gender equality (according to UN stats, women are responsible for 60-80 percent of global food production), climate change (coffee producers are among the hardest hit), human rights, trade justice, sustainable production and consumption...the list goes on. There’s barely a single one of the 169 different action points listed under the SDGs which isn’t related to food and farming. But - and it’s a big but - the SDGs will only be delivered successfully if smallholder farmers and workers play a central role in planning and implementation.

For a start, you can’t have sustainable development for free. Fair prices need to be paid. Fairtrade’s experience shows that you can do trade differently and equitably: it is possible to rebalance trade, to tackle poverty, inequality and exploitation whilst at the same time delivering successful, sustainable, large scale trading within commercial markets. But the SDGs must deliver inclusive trade to benefit the poor, not trade for its own sake.

The UN summit marks the closing of one chapter - the adoption of the SDGs and the end of their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - but the beginning of a much more important one. The official, rather grand-sounding description is the “post-2015 development agenda” - which essentially means turning the text of the SDGs into action. Here’s where Fairtrade can really help. We’ve already launched the “Fair Trade Beyond 2015” campaign, endorsed by 200 mayors around the world, and supported by Ban Ki Moon. In October we’ll release our blueprint for implementing the SDGs, which will mobilise business, civil society, governments and citizens to join forces to implement the SDGs.

Fine words and fine ambitions. But what really counts is what’s happening on the ground. At Banelino, as in many other cooperatives in the world, we’re already showing how Fairtrade can make a difference. The Fairtrade premium has been used to fund a programme of rural school sponsorship, salaries for teachers, purchasing computers, university scholarships, uniforms and school supplies, school transportation, preventive health-care programmes, a dispensary and a health centre, as well as environmental and sustainability programmes. And that’s just one small banana co-operative in one small country. Just think what governments and business can achieve globally by working with Fairtrade!

Trade is central to the SDGs. Sustainable, equitable trade can boost incomes and deliver lasting impact. But all too often, trade systems and trade liberalisation work against the interests of the poor. Fairer trade spreads benefits more equally across the supply chain, results in greater control and more sustainable, resilient businesses. Genuinely sustainable consumption and production protects both people and planet from exploitation.

When delegates go back home after the end of the summit on Sunday, goals and targets will have been agreed for the next 15 years. And then the real work begins: to make the SDGs work for small-scale farmers and workers. Whether you’re cutting bananas on a Caribbean plantation or cutting deals in the corridors of power, maybe it’s not so far from the Dominican Republic to New York after all.

"This piece first appeared on PlanetaFuturo/ElPaís on September 25, 2015 and is reproduced with their kind permission."

Campaigners call on world leaders to ‘light the way’ ahead of key UN Summit


BRUSSELS, 24 September 2015. Today, in more than 70 cities around the world, including Brussels, tens of thousands of activists backed by leaders such as Desmond Tutu and Malala Yousafzaicalled on governments to commit to the new Global Goals for Sustainable Development and tackle the most urgent issues of our time – poverty, inequality and climate change.


In Brussels, action/2015 Europe has brought together citizens on the Esplanade of the European Parliament to write a message to world leaders with 5000 candles. A light show projected on the European Parliament building added to the call to leaders gathered in New York to “light the way” to a better future for people and the planet.

Tamira Gunzburg, Brussels Director of ONE, said: “Millions of us around the world are uniting because we share a common vision for a better life and demand that our leaders deliver an equal, safe and secure future. Tomorrow those leaders will have a chance to rise to that challenge by adopting a new set of Global Goals to tackle poverty, inequality and climate change. That is why we are here tonight to make sure they know that we are watching, and that we will hold them accountable to delivering on those new goals.

Action/2015 has organised over 100 events across the globe on the eve of the United Nations General Assembly, including:

- Mass demonstrations at the historic Constitutional Hill in South Africa;

- Visual illuminations at the iconic Sydney Opera House

- A concert and torch relay across 15 states in India.

The messages and voices of all those taking action around the world will come together at a spectacular light show `under one sky’ in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, a stone’s throw from the UN building in New York.

The new Global Goals for Sustainable Development are a historic opportunity to accelerate progress towards a better future for everyone. The Global Goals, to be adopted on Friday 25 September, have the potential to shape the next 15 years of global development and create momentum for a long-term climate agreement in December. The commitments in 2015 could achieve:

- An end to extreme poverty by 2030 that condemns millions of people, especially women and girls, to an early death, poor education and ill health.

- A turning point in the soaring levels of inequality and discrimination.

- An accelerated transition to 100% renewable energy, ensuring policies that take care of people and planet.

Sergi Corbalán, co-chair of the EYD2015 Civil Society Alliance and Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office, said "For the first time, the United Nations will adopt a series of shared objectives that will apply to all. The universality of the new Sustainable Development Goals’ framework is one of the most important features as it eliminates the old division between North and Southern countries. It makes us all responsible for the planet we inhabit and respectful of all its populations. The European Union must be a strong bearer of its values in this new era, a promoter of human rights, equity and justice, in Europe and globally. The European Year for Development in 2015 is specifically intended to bring citizens closer to those key concepts hoping in their increased involvement, critical thinking and shared responsibility. We call on the European Union and world governments to involve civil society as partners at all levels in the implementation of new Agenda 2030”.

action/2015, one of the world’s largest civil society campaigns made up of over 2000 organisations, networks and coalitions from 150 countries is calling on leaders to commit to implementing these Goals. This includes a commitment to:

- Walk the Talk: have a clear implementation plan, developed with the active participation of citizens - especially marginalized groups and local communities.

- Finance Our Future: ensure sufficient financial flows are made available to deliver all the goals in time. This should include domestic and international funding, meeting existing spending commitments and tackling unfair tax systems.

- Be Accountable & Transparent: Monitor and communicate your progress on implementing the goals. Parliaments, civil society organization and existing human rights and other existing reporting mechanisms should be central to this process.




Notes to editors

Please contact Giada Cicognola from ONE on or +32 2 300 90 53 // +32 479 02 78 94 for interview requests, details of EU mobilisation, or for any other questions.

For an overview of the mobilisations taking place around the world and in Belgium, please see here.


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      The first EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award is officially launched!


      08 December 2017 (Brussels)Yesterday, the European Commission officially launched the first EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award. The Fair Trade movement warmly encourage local authorities to give the necessary visibility to their key contributors to make trade Fair by joining the competition.

      The long-awaited EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award has been officially launched yesterday. This was a commitment that the Commission took in October 2014, when the current EU Trade strategy was launched.

      The purpose of the award is to:

      • Recognize and celebrate cities’ achievements and positive impact in the areas of social, economic and environmental sustainability in international trade. 
      • Emphasize Fair and ethical trade schemes, as well as other non-governmental sustainability schemes, which may bring more sustainable opportunities to small producers in third countries and thus support sustainable and inclusive development.

      The call for applications is now open and EU local authorities can apply until April 2018. The winner is expected to be announced in Brussels in June 2018.

      “The launch of this award has been strongly requested by the Fair Trade movement and the more than 2000 Fair Trade Towns. Therefore, we welcome this initiative which gives the necessary visibility to the contribution of local authorities in promoting sustainable consumption and production models.”

      Sergi Corbalán, FTAO Executive Director

      The Fair Trade movement looks forward to supporting the European Commission and the International Trade Centre, appointed to set-up the award, to make this initiative a real success! The Fair Trade movement will mobilise its network to ensure a high participation of EU local authorities in the award. It will also seize the opportunity to raise awareness on the role of local policy makers in promoting sustainable development through trade.

      You can learn more about the award and how to apply here

      You can read FTAO’s toolkit on localising the SDGs through Fair Trade here

      A pdf version of this press release can be found here.


      The Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) speaks out for Fair Trade and Trade Justice with the aim to improve the livelihoods of marginalised producers and workers in the South. The FTAO is a joint initiative of Fairtrade International, the World Fair Trade Organization-Global and the World Fair Trade Organization-Europe.


      Peter Möhringer | | Tel: +32 (0)2 54 31 92 3

      Fair Trade Advocacy Office

      Village Partenaire - bureau 1 | 15 rue Fernand Bernierstraat | 1060 Brussels – Belgium


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