( Photo courtesy Equal Exchange )

Equal Exchange, importer and distributor of organic Fairtrade bananas in the U.S., is celebrating March as Banana Month to spotlight the small banana operations it partners with in Peru and Ecuador.

Fresh fruit and vegetables accounted for 30% of total organic sales in 2015, according to an Equal Exchange news release, and interest in Fairtrade produce grew by 25% the same year.

“In Piura, the northern region of Peru, there are many distinct groups of small farmers, who on average own less than 3 hectares of land, and are linked to export through the organic banana chain,” Leticia Gutierrez of Equal Exchange partner CEPIBO Cooperative, said in the release. 

“These better economic opportunities have increased the overall level of income, investment in other ventures, access to credit, and resulted in better housing and roads infrastructure.”

The organization believes small growers can help transform local economies and communities, and farmer-owned cooperatives help give them a trade advantage and keep more money in the community, according to the release.

Fairtrade certified banana operations also earn a $1 premium for each box of bananas sold as Fairtrade, according to the release.

In 2015, Fairtrade banana growers around the world received more than $20 million, according to the release.