In the tiny Windward Islands of the Caribbean, low retail prices for bananas coupled with ever lowering import tariff levels for non-ACP bananas entering the EU* have spelt disaster for small scale banana producers. More than 20,000 of 25,000 farmers have gone out of business since 1992.
Of the remaining farmers, most are now Fairtrade certified and this has transformed the lives and businesses of these small banana farmers. Fairtrade guarantees a minimum price that covers the real costs of production, high environmental standards that reduce pesticide use as well as a social premium invested by farmer groups in their local communities. The Fairtrade premium has funded schools, health facilities, roads, pipe borne water, equipment for disadvantaged groups and provided disaster relief.
These farmers depend upon access to the British market to sell their Fairtrade fruit and so Banana Link's Support Caribbean Bananas campaign is putting pressure on supermarkets to make long-term commitments to sourcing bananas from the Windward Islands.
We work closely with The Windward Islands Farmers' Association (WINFA), a confederation of small farmers' organisations supporting small scale farmers in St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Grenada, Dominica and Martinique. Banana Link are also Charity Stakeholders of the Fairtrade Foundation.
Support Caribbean Bananas Campaign
Caribbean bananas are grown on small family owned farms using more sustainable methods of production than those used on the huge monoculture plantations in Latin America. The livelihoods of these small producers are highly dependant on continued trade with the UK.
Caribbean farmers simply cannot compete with the 'cheap' Latin American bananas produced with low paid labour - since 1993 some 15,000 family farms have been gradually squeezed out of the business. If the banana trade in the Windward Islands is allowed to die, along with it will go the efforts of family farmers over the last few years to secure their livelihoods through fair trade.
The FAIRTRADE Mark carried by almost all bananas from the Windwards guarantees they have been traded at a price which ensures the grower can make a decent living, pay their workers properly and make a contribution to their local community. It is thanks to the support of British consumers that small farmers in the Caribbean have been able to build this major fair trade initiative from nothing in the last decade.
Bananas from the Windward Islands (as part of the African, Caribbean and Pacific states that many European countries had a colonial relationship with) traditionally had preferential access into the European Union (EU). This meant that they did not have to pay the tariff - a tax - on bananas sold to the UK that was charged on the bananas exported from Latin America. However, following a bitter trade dispute in the World Trade Organisation (which sets rules for how member countries trade with each other) the regime governing how bananas are imported into the EU has changed. It is now even harder for the Caribbean farmers to compete in the international market.
The Windward Islands now plan to convert 100% Fairtrade production and the survival of their banana industry will depend upon the loyalty of supermarkets to stock Caribbean and Fairtrade bananas if they don't already ......
Read about what happens when you lose a trade war. Renwick Rose, Coordinator of WINFA describes how Europe is shafting the Caribbean.
Read 'Banana Wars' - an excellent article by Joanna Blythman published in the Observer in 2005, following her visit to the Windwards.
Visit the Fairtrade Foundation website to learn more about WINFA and to read the stories of some WINFA members.
Order campaign postcards from Banana Link. Sign and give these to your local supermarkets asking them to make a commitment to stock Fairtrade bananas from the Windward Islands.
Download the Fairtrade bananas leaflet produced by Banana Link which includes a list of wholesale banana suppliers to give to your local shop to encourage them to source Fairtrade bananas.
* Bananas from non-ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States) sources are subject to a tariff when entering the EU. Those from ACP countries enter tariff free however following a WTO ruling in 2009 the tariff level for non-ACP bananas is being reduced over the next few years making it ever harder for Caribeban bananas to compete. For the UK market on ACP mainly applies to bananas from Latin America but as the EU negotitates bilateral trade agreements with individual countries - or groupings of - in the region even lower tariffs are being introduced.