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Expert Comment: Fairtrade Fortnight 2014 – Yes, we have fair bananas!

Tony Bradley Monday 3 March 2014

FairTrade Fortnight 2014 – Yes, we have fair bananas!

"Yes, we have no bananas!" was the popular song by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn, from their Broadway musical revue of 1922, Make it Snappy.  When top tenor Eddie Cantor recorded it in 1923 it became a major hit, taking No1 spot in the American pop charts of the time for five weeks. Closer to home it was adopted as the theme of the Northern Irish depression in 1933 – a song that both Catholics and Protestants could unite behind. It epitomized the miserable condition of working class people in the Province, during the inter-War years, when fresh fruit was almost impossible to find.

We would regard that as almost incredible today. If we want to 'have a banana' we simply go to the supermarket and pick one off the shelf. But, do we realise that in taking that simple step we could become foot soldiers in a frontline war? It’s a war that is forcing many into the sorts of poverty that Irish people endured during the Great Depression? That war is the theme of this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight campaign: "Stick with Foncho – Make Bananas Fair".

Foncho is a small-scale banana producer in Cienaga, Colombia. And he is the poster boy for Fairtrade bananas. That’s because, whilst one-in-three bananas sold in the UK are fairly traded, the two-thirds majority are not. Supermarkets force down the price of commodities like bananas, so that primary producers receive so little money for their crops that they are forced to live below a subsistence poverty line. 

But, it isn’t all bad news. Foncho is a member of the Colombian fairtrade co-operative Coobafrio. That means that he is able to sell his produce – together with his fellow co-operative members - to a supply chain buyer who works directly to bring his bananas to UK supermarkets. That way they cut- out many of the middle-men, who cream-off the banana profits – creamed-off bananas, not as tasty as it sounds! Fairtrade bananas, now that’s a succulent dish for Foncho and the others growers in Coobafrio.

And it can become an even more scrummy story. Foncho is in the UK this week (Fairtrade Fortnight finishes on March 9th) campaigning to get all of us to a sign a petition. His petition is a declaration of peace.  It aims to lobby the UK Government to end the supermarket war on banana growers like him, by banning the sale of non-Fairtrade bananas. 

Join the petition to "Stick with Foncho" and you can get a personalised sticker. For more details, loads of materials, facts and fun stuff and to watch the Fair Trade short film about Foncho and his campaign visit: https://vimeo.com/85364419 Even more, when we next go to pick that banana, we can each remember the power that we have as a consumer. We can choose to trade fairly or not. Today the choices we have for Fairtrade go way beyond bananas, coffee, wine and other farm produce. Ethical consumption is as much local as global. The power for peace in a fairer world lies in our hands –if we just think before we shop.

Tony Bradley, Director, SEED, Liverpool Hope Business School

 

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