A new report has raised new concerns over the treatment of people working in the banana business in developing countries.
According to the report, published by UK-based pressure group Banana Link and the Belgium-based Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO), banana workers and small-scale farmers in developing countries are exposed to allegedly toxic agro-chemicals while allegedly earning a pittance and working in a climate of fear.
The report, entitled Banana Value Chains in Europe and the Consequences of Unfair Trading Practices, also points the finger of blame at European supermarkets, which Banana Link and FTAO accused of exacerbating the situation by engaging in “unfair” trading practices.
It also said that an almost 25 per cent fall in banana wholesale prices, alongside a 40 per cent increase in the retailers’ share of the banana market value, were in stark contrast to “significant increases” in both production and living costs for the workers themselves.
Food, health, education and other living costs had rocketed, for example, by as much as 278 per cent in the Dominican Republic, it observed.
“Around 40 per cent of the profits on bananas are kept by the retailer, whilst workers receive only 0.7-1 per cent. This barely meets the costs of subsistence. It is certainly not a living wage,” said Iris Munguia, representative of Colsiba, the Coordinating Body of Latin American Banana and Agro-industrial Unions.
Jacqui Mackay, UK National Coordinator of Make Fruit Fair! from Banana Link, commented: “The imbalance of power in the banana supply chain and Unfair Trading Practices of supermarkets come at a high price. This generates and amplifies significant negative social and environmental impacts in most banana producing countries, including the denial of basic human rights, gender discrimination, a failure to earn living wages, and long working hours.”
The situation is being made worse by the increasing consolidation of the European retail market, according to Franziska Humbert, policy advisor labour rights and CSR at Oxfam Germany. “Supermarkets use their growing buying power to push prices down below sustainable levels,” she said.
At the end of the year, the European Commission will determine if strong regulations are required to address the prevalence of unfair trading practices.
At present, 50,000 European citizens have signed the Make Fruit Fair! petition calling on Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska to make a legislative proposal.