The Co-operative has announced that it is moving over to 100 per cent Fairtrade in its banana business, with the move timed for the launch of Fairtrade Fortnight from 27 February-11 March.
A Fairtrade pioneer in the UK, the Co-operative has nevertheless lagged behind fellow UK retailers Sainsbury’s and Waitrose in the 100 per cent commitment on bananas, but announced that its banana sourcing policy could be a blueprint for feeding the world’s growing population.
The Co-op says it is linking up with fellow co-operatives that will supply the fruit on a 50/50 basis. Twenty-three of the co-ops are made up of thousands of small-holder growers from Colombia, Ecuador Panama and Peru.
The Co-operative has also teamed up with development charity Oxfam to mark the UN’s international year of co-operatives and both organisations believe that smallholder producers, many of which are co-operatives, are the key to feeding the extra 2bn people that it is estimated will be living on earth by 2050. Oxfam and The Co-op have said they will campaign together for increased international investment to help smallholder growers and co-operatives to feed the world sustainably.
Co-op group chief executive Peter Marks said: “Despite the economic downturn, Fairtrade sales in the UK continue to grow, and support for Fairtrade from our own customers and members is as strong as ever. The switch to 100 per cent Fairtrade bananas in more than 4,000 Co-operative stores in the UK is a demonstration of this commitment to Fairtrade, co-operatives and small-scale farmers.
“…The encouragement of smallholder farmers – many of whom are women – offers the best route to sustainably feed the two billion extra people who will live on Earth by 2050.”
As part of its wider commitment to tackling global poverty, the Co-op is delivering a range of projects and initiatives that go beyond Fairtrade.
In Panama, for example, as well as a guaranteed price for their bananas and the Fairtrade premium, the co-operative is receiving an additional £260,000 (€307,000) from the retailer over a three-year period to deliver clean water, sanitation and fuel-efficient stoves, as well as co-operative development.