Bananas Lend Stability in Post-Conflict Colombia

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For more than a generation, banana farmers and workers in the regions of Urabá and Magdalena, Colombia, have been seeking one thing: stability. Following the 2006 peace process that brought an end to major conflicts in Colombia, the focus shifted to resurrecting the battered economy.

“An Evaluation of Fairtrade Impact on Smallholders and Workers in the Banana Sector in Northern Colombia (PDF),” a recently-released report by the Corporation for Rural Business Development (CODER), looks into the impact of Fairtrade for small-scale banana farmers and workers on banana plantations and how Fairtrade has contributed to greater stability in these regions.

During the conflict, the once-thriving banana sector of Urabá and Magdalena suffered heavily and local economies ground to a halt. Many farmers abandoned their farms or could not visit them. At the end of any conflict, providing options for displaced farmers and veterans was of vital importance for maintaining the peace.

The improved security situation set the stage for a revival of the banana sector and a major increase in the number of Fairtrade producer organizations. In 2007, there were just four Fairtrade producer organizations, a number that grew to 36 as of 2013. The country exported 6.2 million boxes of Fairtrade bananas in 2012, mostly to the UK and the Netherlands, representing 35 percent of global Fairtrade banana sales.

Much of this growth is due major commitments in 2010 from Dutch retailers to stock 100 percent Fairtrade bananas, and commitments from UK retailers. This led to the development of an innovative public-private partnership involving the Colombian Banana Growers Association (AUGURA), the Banana Growers Union of Urabá , Fyffes, Max Havelaar/Fairtrade, and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (read the original story here).

The CODER study confirmed that Fairtrade has had a positive impact for small-scale farmers and workers in the last three years thanks to implementation of Fairtrade Standards and strong sales on Fairtrade terms, alongside the establishment of a strong labour union, and the support of the public-private partnership.

However for all of the positive outcomes, the study found that prices paid for bananas remain at an unsustainable level for many. Rampant consolidation in distribution channels and a sustained price war between retail outlets continue to put price pressure on banana producers.

In a banana price review implemented in January 2014 , Fairtrade International implemented a substantial increase to the Fairtrade Minimum Price based on system wide research. It is hoped that this will give small producer organization and plantations a stronger position for negotiations. Fairtrade continues to monitor the impacts of the pricing change.

Read the summary and response from Max Havelaar Netherlands and Fairtrade International here.

Download the full report here (PDF 2.39MB).

For more information on the impact of Fairtrade bananas, please click here to download report produced by Max Havelaar Netherlands.

The research was commissioned by Max Havelaar Netherlands in close collaboration with Fairtrade International and the Dutch Embassy in Colombia.

Please click here to download the 2013 research commissioned by Fairtrade International, 'WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE BANANA EXPERIENCE IN COLOMBIA? Study of Industrial Relations on Fairtrade Certified Farms in the Urabá Region'.