Retailers working with Fairtrade to ensure living wage for banana workers

Wed 19/10/2022 by Richard Wilkinson
Portrait of Minel Bellamy, banana worker. Copyright: Fairtrade/José García.
Minel Bellamy, banana worker
Leading retailers are working with Fairtrade International to ensure that banana plantation workers are paid an acceptable living wage. Following the group’s launch of a so-called ‘base wage’ for bananas in 2021, companies signed up to the Fairtrade model are required to pay at least 70 per cent of whatever is deemed to be a living wage in the region where they work. Fairtrade says it will now carry out analysis across its major banana-producing areas to see what progress has been made. In late 2021, Fairtrade launched a partnership with the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) based on its salary matrix, a web-based tool that uses wage data to show the gap to the relevant region-specific living wage benchmark.
Fairtrade International’s 2021/22 Annual Report outlines its efforts to secure better treatment of workers, as follows:

The ability of workers to organise is fundamental to achieving decent work, including fair contracts, health and safety protections, gender equity, and a living wage. While the Fairtrade Standards spell out many requirements for plantations that hire workers, our ambition is that workers have the power to improve their own livelihoods and negotiate their terms of work.

Sales of Fairtrade bananas were apparently stable in 2021 at just under 740,000 tons, with almost two-thirds of that volume organic, and earned a reported premium of €34.67m. But producers have face continuous increases in production costs, especially for packing materials, fertilisers, energy, logistics and higher freight rates, the group reports.

Early in 2022, in the face of depressed banana prices, seven Latin American governments took the unprecedented step of calling for shared responsibility, fairer prices for farmers, and the use of the Fairtrade banana pricing methodology as a reference in the industry. The response to this advocacy will be seen early in 2023 as annual contracts are set.

The top consumer markets for Fairtrade bananas in 2021 were the UK, Germany and France, with strong gains in Austria, Canada and Spain.

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