When a big Montreal importer began importing and selling Fair Trade bananas at a much lower price, Daniel couldn’t lower hers, which is set by Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, along with a dollar-per-box social premium.
When the recession hit, she was also concerned about sales. But she didn’t need to worry.
“Even with an economic crisis and a higher price, our sales did not go down,” she said. “That’s because the consumer knows why he or she is buying Fair Trade bananas. They know the product is good quality and that their action has a direct impact on the lives of farm families.”
Her latest challenge came from U.S. Customs, which spent months last winter inspecting every load.
“Our papers were always in order, so we couldn’t understand why it was happening,” she said. “It was a six-month nightmare ... some days we felt like we were paying them to import.”
Equicosta’s only option was to fulfill the rigorous requirements, mountains of paperwork and background checks required for Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism certification against terrorist threats.
“Now our containers are checked much less often,” she said.
As she prepares to receive her first load of avocados and grapefruit from Mexico, the learning curve continues. But every hard day brings an e-mail from a Quebec consumer looking for Equicosta bananas, or thanking her for her hard work.
“It’s encouraging to know that people believe in what we’re doing,” she said.