|British banana lust drives growers into poverty
When a banana flown half-way round the world costs half the price of an apple grown in Britain, many wonder whether Latin American banana producers are getting a fair deal.
The British love eating bananas. Each Briton eats 100 bananas a year. Most are from Latin America: 28 percent from Colombia; 24 percent from the Dominican Republic; 16 percent from Ecuador and the remaining 32 percent from other countries, AFP reports.
The government began a national banana day in 1946, in which each child received a ration of one banana when imports resumed again.
Britain's Fairtrade Foundation charity, began a campaign in London this week to declare a truce in the price battle that ends up with growers, mostly in Latin America, selling their bananas at below the cost of production.
Britain is the only country among the bigger European states where bananas are now cheaper than they were a decade ago. In Germany, France and Italy, prices have risen.
A banana that cost 18 pence (30 US cents) in Britain in 2002 now costs 11 pence – about half the price of a locally-grown apple, according to the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development.
Fairtrade Foundation chief executive Michael Gidney said: “Small farmers and plantation workers are the collateral damage in supermarket price wars.
“The poorest people are bearing the cost of our cheap bananas and they have to work harder as what they earn is worth less and less in their communities,'' he told a London press conference.
“As a result, a product that is worth billions of pounds in global trade relies on poverty-level income for the people who grow it.''
Alfonso Cantillo, a Colombian banana producer from the north coast Magdalena area who sells to Britain, was invited to London by Fairtrade to highlight the issue.
He said he receives US$8.15 per 18-kilogram box. His production cost is US$9.
“We get no real benefit for what we invest. It's very frustrating,'' Cantillo said.
“When banana prices fall, we suffer from the impact. Our living conditions go down. We need price stability.''
Not even the supermarkets are making money on bananas. Fairtrade said retailer representatives estimate the big chains may be losing money as a result of banana price competition.
Fairtrade has focused on bananas rather than other produce because “what has happened on the price of bananas is quite extraordinary,’’ said Barbara Crowther, director of policy and public affairs.