Hundreds of millions of people and their communities across the world rely on banana production for their livelihoods, and the enormous volume of bananas produced globally should provide these people with a fair income and a dignified lifestyle.
The banana is a true world food, consumed universally as a necessity of life and recognised in the developed world as a healthy and nutritious convenience food. Children take it in their lunch boxes to school, a favourite of sportsmen and women such as tennis players at Wimbledon, an essential ingredient in banana bread (a coronavirus lockdown favourite for many people), fruit smoothies served in trendy urban cafes, and traditional signature desserts such as banana splits and banana fritters. How multi-purpose can a single fruit be?
For decades, bananas have made us feel good. Countless songs have been written about them, such as the iconic “Banana Boat song ( Day-O”) by Harry Belafonte, describing how daylight has come, their shift is over, and they want their work to be counted up so that they can go home. You could also call it a form of slavery, encapsulated in musical harmony. Artists of all kinds were, and still are, inspired by this crooked yellow wonder of nature.
And we do not want to spoil the fun element of many activities around the banana world on this day, but unfortunately there are some inconvenient truths about the banana industry that we cannot ignore, such as poverty wages, unhealthy working conditions and the environmental damage caused by banana production.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. AgroFair was the first company, 25 years ago this year, to start trading Fairtrade certified bananas. And, although other competitor companies have followed our example, the work is not finished. Pure old-fashioned and ruthless, capitalist market economics keeps rearing its ugly head, and ultimately undermining hope for a well-balanced global economy that benefits everyone on the planet equally.
Adding to the already serious challenges facing banana producers, it has been confirmed in recent weeks that the incurable banana-destroying disease TR4 has arrived in Peru, and brought us all face to face with harsh reality. There’s a strong and urgent need for concrete action, more financial resources, genuine open source cooperation, acceleration of scientific research, solution-oriented. Not “APRÈS MOI LE DÈLUGE”,….. or even worse “WE DIDN’T KNOW”
But all is not lost. The European Commission’s “The Farm to Fork” strategy offers the promise of truly sustainable global food production, greener, less wasteful and more secure. Let us act together for a fairer banana trade from which everyone can derive their fair share of the benefit. We certainly need more than fine words and wonderfully glossy sustainability reports.
The banana and those whose labour ensures it continues to reach our supermarket shelves deserve more respect.
Let’s make that our goal with all stakeholders, big and small.