Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust is partner organisation in the Make Fruit Fair! (MFF) project through which 27 organisations are calling on the EU, governments, supermarkets and the wider food industry to ensure that a fair price is paid for tropical fruits and that these are produced without violating human rights or polluting the environment.
Why Focus on Bananas and Pineapples?
Banana is one of the most consumed fruits in the world, hence tackling labour rights issues in the banana industry will have a rippling effect in other fruit sectors.
Bananas grow mostly in developing, tropical countries, mainly in Central and South America and Africa. Farmers work the plantations, harvest and package the fruit, which is then transported by large supermarket chains into their stores around the globe. Farmers and workers on banana plantations find it difficult to earn a decent living, despite the fact that they work for many hours in difficult conditions. They are also exposed to harmful pesticides. The typical banana plantation in Central America uses up to 70 kgs of pesticides per hectare per year – over 10 times the amount used in the production of other crops in industrialized countries. Banana plantation workers are often exposed to pesticides due to inadequate or no protective gear while the bananas are sprayed. The banana industry consumes more agrochemicals than any other in the world, excepting cotton. Some of these chemicals are classified as hazardous by the World Health Organisation. Agrochemical use pollutes water supplies and can have devastating impacts on worker health.
Given that just a handful of multinational fruit companies control 75% of the international trade, these companies have great bargaining power and are difficult to negotiate with, and therefore the farmers suffer in silence and are unable to get leverage to improve their situation. Furthermore, Supermarkets are now the most powerful actors along the banana supply chain and make substantial profits by paying unsustainably low prices to the fruit companies that market bananas and / or own plantations.
A 'race to the bottom' in the banana industry has been fuelled by the low prices paid by supermarkets and the cost cutting actions taken by fruit companies as they relocate in search of cheaper labour and weaker legislation in exporting regions. Employers have increasingly sub-contracted labour in a bid to reduce their responsibility for working conditions, the respect of core labour standards or payment of a living wage. Plantation labour is increasingly casual with many workers on temporary contracts or hired on a daily basis. In several countries membership of independent trade unions has fallen as a direct result.
Although supermarkets sometimes fund these price wars, in general the cuts are simply passed onto suppliers until they reach plantation workers, the weakest link in the chain and therefore the 'easiest' to squeeze. Workers are however the ones that can least afford the cuts. Their tiny share of total value often fails to provide a living wage (to cover essential needs including food, housing and education). The majority of plantation workers live in poverty and too many still have their most basic labour rights abused.
Buying tropical fruit is often the closest relationship any of us have with the developing world. The consumer choices we make can – and do – have a direct impact on how people are employed and paid, and how their environment is treated.
Join us in calling on the EU, governments, supermarkets and the wider food industry to ensure that a fair price is paid for tropical fruits that are produced without violating human rights or polluting the environment.
Spread the Make Fruit Fair! Campaign – in real life or virtually!
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Here are a few ideas to get you started:
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