Press release and photos: EU Public Affairs
Last Friday, November the 27th, banana producers and exporters from seven Latin American countries called for a tripartite roundtable with main European retailers and the private certifier Rainforest Alliance. The main objective was to reach a common position that would put an end to the conflict over new certification standards imposed by Rainforest Alliance.
Despite Rainforest Alliance’s refusal to attend, guilds and retail groups agreed that Rainforest Alliance has the obligation to define the concept of Shared Responsibility, as well as creating a specific committee for its development, composed by representatives of producers and retail groups.
Banana growers stated, “We are curious about RfA’s refusal to participate in the dialogue, especially considering that they themselves have established the requirement for a Shared Responsibility following the Sustainability Differential”. In addition, they clarify “it is not a discussion about prices, it is a discussion about how to make the frog seal fair again, with added value, and created according guidelines that will not jeopardize the sustainability of banana producers”. To this end, producers have requested a meeting with the certifier’s Board of Directors, the date of which has yet to be defined.
Latin America’s banana industry has slammed the Rainforest Alliance certifying body for being out of touch with today’s market realities. According to representatives of the sector from Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica and Guatemala, which account for a combined 65% of the global banana crop, Rainforest Alliance has failed to consider their opinions when developing certification criteria. Producers claimed that the latest standard published two weeks ago contains crucial differences with the 2019 rules and was not the result of due consultation.
At a meeting between the representatives of the sector and Rainforest Alliance, the main issues of contention related to the significant challenges facing the region, such as the economic impact of Covid-19, TR4 and Black Sigatoka. The representatives also complained of the pressures from European retailers to impose lower and lower prices. It was also pointed out that the Rainforest Alliance rules do not take into account the social and environmental regulations imposed by individual governments, and that this inclination to regulate in parallel causes inconsistencies in the whole chain, not to mention that it is a sort of regulatory anomaly. Moreover, the decision to ban the use of drones has also been questioned.
The meeting ended with Rainforest Alliance committing to convene working groups between their representatives and Latin American producers. Producers are calling for the RA to delay the enforcement of the new standards until January 2022.