Bananas - we love 'em! When I was asked to go to Ghana 12 years ago to visit some Fairtrade banana farms, I thought, "They must know I am a well-known collector of the stickers that you get on banana skins." I've got more than ten now...
Now, twelve years on, I am supporting the Fairtrade Foundation's call to 'Stick with Foncho'. Foncho is a banana farmer from Colombia and the face of the campaign to make all bananas fair. I remember from my trip how much hard work goes into growing bananas and what a difference a fair price can make to the communities out there. I have created my own personalised banana sticker at stickwithfoncho.org.uk to show my support for Foncho and other bananas farmers.
Bananas are the most popular fruit in the world. In the UK we munch our way through more than five billion a year and one in three of them are now Fairtrade. That means two thirds are not fair bananas.
It would make sense that such a big industry with such a popular product would be profitable for everyone involved in producing and supplying the market, but this is not the case. In fact, bananas in the UK are priced at a level that is not really profitable for retailers or the companies they buy from and so there is enormous pressure on keeping costs low along the supply chain. And with millions of tonnes of the fruit traded, even a few pence taken off the cost of a kilo amounts to a great deal of money.
As a result of this, small farmers and workers like Foncho - in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa - are not seeing a fair return for their hard work in growing the fruit. Instead they face an ever-tightening squeeze on their living standards, year after year, trapping them in a bigger and bigger cycle of poverty.
Retailers and banana companies have locked themselves into the way the banana business is run now, and tens of thousands of small farmers and workers live daily with the consequences of a failed banana market.
The reality is that many can't afford to put enough food on the table for their families or provide basics such as education and healthcare.
The Fairtrade banana farmers I visited in Ghana twelve years ago have since built schools, clinics, health insurance and much more with their Fairtrade premium - thanks to the hard work and dedication of farmers together with the shoppers over here buying Fairtrade. But, more importantly, the workers feel empowered knowing they are selling their bananas on better terms of trade.
This Fairtrade Fortnight (24 February to 9 March) we're calling on the government to work with supermarkets to treat all banana farmers and workers fairly. Go to the website stickwithfoncho.org.uk to sign the on-line petition. You'll also find instructions about making your own personalised banana stickers to brighten up the banana aisles in your local supermarket, asking everyone to "Stick with Foncho to Make Bananas Fair".
Please join me and show your support for Foncho and his fellow banana farmers.
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