Bananas are one of several everyday essentials under threat from climate change, Fairtrade Foundation warns


The Fairtrade Foundation has created ‘The Endangered Aisle’, a pop-up store in London’s Shoreditch highlighting the supermarket staples most at risk from being endangered in the future, due to the climate crisis.

It comes as a new report published by the Fairtrade Foundation, which includes analysis carried out by independent advisors 3Keel, has exposed the environmental risks that could lead to some of the UK’s favourite foods becoming endangered.

The report reveals that the supply chains for bananas, coffee, and cocoa originate from countries that are vulnerable to threats caused by climate change, deforestation, and biodiversity loss.

To highlight the threat, the Fairtrade Foundation has created an immersive retail space, ‘The Endangered Aisle’, emphasising the urgent need to protect the future of food and the small switches shoppers can make to play their part.

The launch – on 28 February – coincides with Fairtrade Fortnight, the annual campaign that raises awareness around the importance of ensuring farmers are given a fair price to cover the increasing costs associated with the climate crisis.

Visitors will be able to experience the reality of what the supermarket shop could be like in the near future, learn more about where their favourite supermarket staples come from and hear first-hand stories from Fairtrade producers about the challenges they face related to the climate crisis.

Those who make a sustainability pledge will be able to take home complimentary Fairtrade products.

This follows research that reveals significant sections of the British public believe that climate change will affect their weekly shop, with 33 per cent saying they think availability will be affected and 41 per cent stating that it will affect price.

However only 38 per cent have made active changes and 23 per cent are not sure how to help. Meanwhile only 16 per cent of those surveyed check the country of origin of all the products they buy.


Supermarket staples at risk

Almost half (48 per cent) of UK banana imports (totalling more than 500,000 tonnes) originate from countries with high climate change vulnerability. Supplying the UK’s demand for bananas each year requires an estimated land footprint of over 34,000ha – an area about the size of York.

Banana farmer Foncho, from Magdalena, Colombia belongs to the Coobafrio c-operative, and is currently part of a Fairtrade-run initiative – the Productivity Improvement Programme.

Reflecting on the benefits, Foncho said: ‘We have been able to recuperate a great part of the fauna and the flora from our region. Every “peso” this programme benefits me with has an impact in my family.

“Today, more than the financial part, the main benefit is to recuperate our soil… Today my production is higher, the black rust control is better, I have better stability inside my plantation.’

Caitlin McCormack, 3Keel Senior Consultant, added: “The UK sources a significant proportion of consumer favourites including bananas, coffee and cocoa from countries that face potential risks to future production, including from changes in the climate and the loss of biodiversity and habitat that provide ecosystem services that are critical to farming.

“It’s essential that we work with producers in these countries to help them shift to sustainable and resilient methods of production”


The food Brits can’t live without

“While it’s all too easy to assume that our food will always be available, stocked and ready to shop, the reality is not the case,” the Fairtrade Foundation said.

“We know how much the public love their chocolate fix, their daily cappuccino and baking that banana bread. Over 40 per cent of Brits shared that coffee is the Fairtrade product they would most struggle to live without, followed by chocolate and bananas (both 31 per cent).

It’s no surprise, then, that over half (54 per cent) of shoppers say they would be ‘devastated, annoyed or upset’ if coffee and bananas were no longer available to buy in the UK.

If challenges including climate change continue to impact and damage farmers’ ability to grow these favourites, these are at risk of disappearing from our shelves.


What is the solution?

Mike Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation, commented: “It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, because it may not be on our shelves forever. Today, climate breakdown is making it harder and harder to grow food crops, making our food security ever more vulnerable.

“There is a risk that farmers will have to stop farming. In some worst-case scenarios, certain varieties of the foods they grow for UK consumption could become luxury items.

“That’s why it’s important that farmers and workers receive a fair price that will enable them to invest in transitioning to sustainable and climate resilient ways of production.

“We can all do this by choosing Fairtrade. Sustainability doesn’t have to cost the earth. Whatever your budget and wherever you shop, when you choose Fairtrade you support farmers to take care of the environment.”