Guatemala: reversing the race to the bottom

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As news that Chiquita is investing in improving its port facilities in Guatemala confirms, the country’s rapidly expanded banana industry looks here to stay as one of the world’s top three exporters for years to come. Local industry reports that more than 30,000 workers are now employed in banana export production in rural communities earning wages higher than comparable sectors. Indeed some more progressive companies, conscious of rising expectations by consumers and therefore retailers, have made significant improvements in labour standards, however hours remain very long and take-home wages do not meet most family’s basic needs. Others have yet to understand that this is not only an ethical issue per se, but also good for business. Workers are surely the primary stakeholders in a banana business that is equipped to meet the challenge’s of the 21st century.
The industry also has a major environmental advantage because of the relatively ‘new’ and disease-free land in the Pacific coast. Agrochemical applications are some of the lowest in the conventional banana exporting world. All the more reason why investment in improvements for workers through genuine social dialogue with independent trade unions, as happens in Izabal, should be prioritised now, whilst other costs of production remain quite low.

This article from comes in response to an interesting piece by the Chair of the Association of Independent Banana Producers in Costa Rica’s English language newspaper, The Tico Times.