Fair Trade banana programs show growth

A growing number of suppliers now offer bananas that are Fair Trade certified to ensure that workers and the environment are treated well where the fruit is produced.

Earl’s Organic Produce in San Francisco, for example, only sells bananas that are Fair Trade-certified, said Patrick Stewart, director of operations.

“We’ve done a lot of work to market that specific banana,” he said.

“It’s the only way to guarantee that growers and the actual people who are doing the work of picking and packing are getting a fair shake,” Stewart said.

Oke USA Fruit Co., West Bridgewater, Mass., the importing arm of the Equal Exchange brand, has doubled the size of its organic Fair Trade program “after many years of effort,” said Nicole Vitello, president.

“That has been a huge success for us in 2017,” she said.

But she added that she would like to see more U.S. consumers seek out Fair Trade-certified products.

“I think people care about their own health where bananas are concerned,” she said. “I wish people would care a little bit more about the health of the people growing the bananas, because that might lead more to Fair Trade.”

The company is certified by Fairtrade America.

Fair Trade certification, which is conducted by a third party auditor, guarantees that “the checks and balances are in place” to ensure that the $1 per box premium on each carton of bananas is accounted for and is being spent in line with Fair Trade standards, Stewart said.

Under Fair Trade programs, workers are compensated fairly and set up committees composed of workers who decide how to spend the Fair Trade premium, he said.

Typically, funds are used for schools, medical facilities or local transportation programs.

Consumers actually are willing to pay more for Fair Trade-certified bananas, according to research released in September by Washington, D.C.-based GlobeScan.

Of those surveyed, 64% indicated that they would purchase Fair Trade-certified bananas, even if they cost 10 cents more per pound. The number increased to 77% when the per-pound price was 5 cents per pound.

“When the price is right, consumers state a strong willingness to pay a premium for Fair Trade bananas over those without a label,” James Morris, U.S. director for GlobeScan, said in a news release.

“It shows that people will support retailers that take the extra step to invest in their supply chains.”

 

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