Update: 6 July 2020
The Chiquita certificate was suspended on 30 April 2020 by Rainforest Alliance as a result of non-compliance with certification standards during a regular audit in February 2020.
Due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, the Rainforest Alliance granted an exception, that allowed Chiquita to continue selling certified products until a verification audit could be conducted. The verification audit was conducted on June 12, 2020 (in alignment with Rainforest Certification Rules) and on June 17, 2020, the certification body communicated a positive result and the suspension was lifted. You can access the complete public audit report here.
According to reports from www.reefertrends.com, ethical certification body Rainforest Alliance has imposed a blanket suspension of Chiquita’s certification throughout Costa Rica. We understand the measure was taken as a result of “minor nonconformities” on a single audit while the multinational was preparing its workforce for the coronavirus pandemic
A statement by Leonie Haakshorst, Sector Lead Banana & Fruit at Rainforest Alliance, says: “The current Coronavirus pandemic is a situation of force majeure which affects the normal implementation of our certification program and we are implementing special measures to address this. A Rainforest Alliance policy set out the rules for farm standard certificate holders where conducting an audit is not possible due to restrictions related to COVID19. Farm certificate holders will have until Oct 31st to carry out an in-person audit to maintain their certification. The certificate for Chiquita farms globally has not been cancelled. They can continue sales while awaiting the results of their audit, given by a Certification Body.”
In a further clarification to www.reefertrends.com, Rainforest said: “Certification has been suspended following a recent audit. The audit report was provided by an independent certification body at the start of the pandemic, while Chiquita was busy protecting their workers against Covid 19. Given the pandemic, the Rainforest Alliance has decided to extend the usual timeframe to conduct the verification audit – in line with our COVID-19 policy and allowed Chiquita to sell during this suspension period.” They further confirmed that the suspension “was due to minor nonconformities that need to be addressed”.
Banana Link Policy & Communications Officer, Paul Lievens, welcomed this news, saying that “Having previously questioned the effectiveness of Rainforest Alliance auditing in our 2016 report Rainforest Alliance and the Discount Supermarkets: Low Prices and Easy Standards?, we hope this latest development suggests the certifier is taking a more robust approach to ensure that certified plantations meet certification standards”.