Challenges in and Fair Trade solutions for the banana industry

make fruit fair

“Bananas are the bestselling fruit in the world. They don't need advertising, everybody wants them. As cheap as possible.” This sentence is the first thing one sees when entering, a website set up by , the Ecumenical Academy (Czech Republic) jointly with 19 partners as part of the Make Fruit Fair Campaign. This very interesting website enables one to really assess the impact in the South of purchasing cheap bananas in European supermarkets. Along with a counter comparing the amount of money earned by Lidl and by Miguel, a plantation worker, while one browses the website, one comes across several testimonies of banana producers on their daily life.
The Story of the banana also emphasizes on the environmental impact of the banana production, banana being the second most chemically intensive crop grown after cotton. Thus, the banana workers are affected.
Indeed, an epidemiological study realized by SüdWind among the banana workers from Ecuador and based on a questionnaire survey has been released and presents concerning results regarding the effects of pesticides on human health.
71 workers from five different locations in Ecuador, the world’s largest exporter of bananas, volunteered for taking a medical survey on their self-reported symptoms as well as exposure indicators. 34 pesticides-exposed and 37 non-pesticides-exposed male workers participated.
The results showed that farmers involved in organic farming had less symptoms presented by the conventional farmers (vomiting, skin irritation, burning eyes, insomnia). Moreover, the exposed group had a 6 – 8-fold increased risk for reporting gastrointestinal symptoms (in the last 6 month) than the control group who did not use pesticides. After taking swabs of workers’ buccal mucosae, nuclear anomalies were found, showing a carcinogenic potential.
What is also striking, is that most of the farmers do not know what pesticides they apply and use only minimal protection, mostly because the protective clothing is not provided by the employers.
In order to help consumers, an article extracted from Ethical Consumer Magazine highlights several problems reported in the banana industry. First, the article reveals that none of the largest companies in the banana industry scored best or even middle in the magazine’s key social and environmental reporting ratings. For instance, several companies including Del Monte, Dole and Chiquita have been accused of funding paramilitary organisations in the northern banana-producing region of Uraba, Colombia. Another flaw of the banana production is its impact on environment as the majority of the production is concentrated on one variety, the Cavendish, which makes the plants very susceptible to diseases, which are fought against with pesticides.
Ethical Consumer Magazine has also released an explanatory video on the banana industry and gives pieces of advice on where to buy the most ethical bananas and which label to trust. Fairtrade certified EkoOke bananas have a very good rating as well as Fairtrade bananas retailers (Sainsbury’s, Co-op and Waitrose).
Amidst all the challenges the banana industry comprises also several success stories thanks to Fair Trade. Fairtrade Poland recently released a case study focusing on an Ecuadorian cooperative, ASOGUABO, producing bananas. The plantation sells over 1 million boxes of bananas per year and all of them are Fairtrade certified. When a buyer pays 9$ for a box of bananas, 6$ goes directly to the producer, which encourages them to continue to apply the standards. This cooperative, which has the ambition to “change the banana market”, is a success story as ASOGUABO bananas are sold in Europe, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and are used to produce Ben&Jerry’s famous ice cream.
Among the 600 banana workers at ASOGUABO, this study chose to bring to light 5 testimonies from the producers to highlight the importance that the Fairtrade certification has had on the empowerment of these workers, in particular concerning the way the premium is spent in the community.

SDGs mean business

SDGs report

WWF issued a new report in February 2017 focusing on how businesses can use credible voluntary sustainability standards to contribute to many of the SDGs and targets. Standards and certification systems are one mechanism for scaling up sustainable practices and transforming sectors.
The private sector has a responsibility to contribute to achieving the SDGs. Large multinational companies, in particular, have a key role to play in addressing social and environmental issues in their own supply chains and the wider sector they are part of. Credible sustainability standards offer businesses a ready-made tool to do so.

Key elements of a credible standard system include:
• Multi-stakeholder participation
• Transparency
• Independent verification
• Continuous improvement

Three main considerations will help decide whether a sustainability standard can help a
business contribute to the SDGs:
1. relevance to goals, targets, indicators and business themes under the SDGs agenda
2. performance levels and the pathway to compliance
3. creating opportunities, channeling resources and mobilizing investments.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly…. Banana!

make fruit fair

GVC produced in the framework of the Make Fruit Fair campaign three videos which were released on 30 November that stress several aspects of the imbalance of power in supply chain:
• In the first short film the inhumane conditions of banana workers are shown. They are underpaid, exposed to health threats because of the pesticides they use during the production process, and are unable to join a trade union to protect their rights.
• The second one stresses the even worse conditions women have to accept to keep working in the plantations. Among them are precarious working contracts, unpaid extra working hours, absence of health insurance, blackmails, and sexual harassments.
• Finally a Fair remake of the famous Sergio Leone’s movie, focuses on the different impact of a low-cost, a green, and a fair banana.

First Climate Project Certified Under Fairtrade Climate Standard

Climate standards

The Fairtrade Climate Standard is an innovative scheme developed by Fairtrade International in partnership with Gold Standard - the leading certification standard for climate and development. The project aims to improve living conditions for the communities in Lesotho, and to strengthen them against the impacts of climate change.
The Fairtrade Climate Standard enables vulnerable communities in developing countries to reduce emissions while also strengthening themselves against the effects of climate change. The Fairtrade Minimum Price ensures the costs of running the project are covered, while an additional Fairtrade Premium is paid directly to the village communities to be invested in local climate adaptation initiatives of their choice. For businesses, Fairtrade Carbon Credits can help in taking responsibility for their carbon footprint by offsetting any unavoidable emissions.

Women School of Leadership

Woman leadership

The launch of Fairtrade Africa’s new Women School of Leadership next 12 May 2017 in Abidjan Côte d’Ivoire will be based on a year-long training, broken down into 10 modules aimed at supporting marginalised women farmers and the next generation of farmers to attain power and agency.
The courses that will be covered in the module include:
• Human Rights and Women’s Human Rights
• Fairtrade Standards and Gender Strategy
• Developing Self-Confidence, Self-Esteem and Resilience
• Group Cohesion and Principles of Cooperation
• Women and Leadership
• Women and the Economy
• Women Understanding Money
• Income Diversification and Project Management
• Strategic Negotiation and Influencing
• Masculinity and Gender Equality

The aim is to strengthening their:
1. Human capital (e.g. knowledge and skills, Leadership skills, influencing and advocacy skills, business skills)
2. Social capital (e.g. groups, networks, alliances, partnerships and mentorship programs)
3. Financial capital (e.g. diversified financial base, access to loans, own savings)
4. Physical capital and access to sustainable resources (e.g. Individual and community assets, land, water, energy, forests, productive tools).


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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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