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The true cost of tropical fruits

Germany: Fairtrade instead of cheap bananas

TransFair eV at Fruit Logistica: Fairtrade is not yet where it should be, stressed TransFair CEO, Dieter Overath, at Fruit Logistica, "but without fair trade, sustainable supply chains and trade can not be reached." For example, Fairtrade partner AgroFair has become a role model, as cooperative small farmers are the co-owners of this import company.

In Germany, all Fairtrade bananas also have a Bio-Label. Image: Stefan Lechner

70 percent of organic bananas in Germany are fair - golden fruit among yellow fruit
In Germany, all Fairtrade bananas also have a Bio-Label. At just under 87,000 tonnes and an increase of 20 percent over the previous year, Fairtrade, organic bananas achieved a market share of over 70 percent in 2017. But: "Not all farmers can switch to organic. That's why we need not just the good organic banana, but the better conventional banana, that should also have the Fairtrade label," was Dieter Overath’s appeal. "In terms of more sustainable banana supply chains, the trade could send a clear signal." The magazine Ökotest (01/2018) confirmed that this is necessary. These consumer advocates recommended Fairtrade as the ‘gold standard’. In their test, almost all Fairtrade bananas scored "very good". Conventional fruits showed shortcomings in manufacturing conditions and use of pesticides. Here the overall ratings ranged from ‘satisfactory’ to ‘insufficient’.

Banana prices and their external costs
Banana cultivation often has a negative impact on people and the environment. Per box (18.14 kg) of conventionally grown bananas, in the cultivating countries here are follow-up costs averaging around 5.40 euros. "The social impact of the price pressure along the supply chain is underpayment, occupational insecurity and health issues," said banana expert Silvia Campos of Fairtrade International. Fairtrade performs better because fewer costs need to be outsourced: "For example, Fairtrade requires minimum wages and compliance with ILO core labour standards. In addition, the banana organizations invest in quality and productivity, among other things. These measures help to increase yields and reduce water consumption and fertilizers, further reducing external costs."

A fair trade contributes to more sustainable banana farming, confirmed Marike de Pena, CEO of the Latin American Fairtrade Producers Network CLAC: "Stable minimum prices ensure security. The additional Fairtrade Premium will go towards projects striving for better waste and water management, methods to improve soil fertility and basic needs such as education and health care. As a producer network, we promote the transfer of knowledge among farmers, offer training and increase quality and efficiency in cultivation. Studies shows that we are on the right track!"

Political framework conditions for a sustainable banana supply chain
Even Fairtrade is not yet optimized. The Truecost and True Price organizations calculated that Fairtrade had external costs of 2.90 euros per box. Environmental factors such as climate change, land use and water use are causing follow-up costs. Furthermore, wages and incomes also need to increase more in this fair trade. "In order to be able to pay decent wages and not put the environment at risk, the enormous pricing pressure along the supply chain has to end," said Dieter Overath. "We need a clear framework for that. That has to be achieved politically.”

The neighbours are doing it - fair and fruity in the Netherlands and Switzerland
Hans-Willem van der Waal, Managing Director of AgroFair agrees: "If we want to continue eating bananas in the future, we have to be prepared to pay a price for this tropical fruit that enables sustainable farming." Agrofair is one of the largest importers of fair trade bananas. "The demands on quality are enormous, and that must be reflected in the price. We see the positive influences of fair trade among our partners. Fairtrade should be normal among traders." Where German retailers still lacked courage, the Netherlands are already successful: At supermarket chains Plus, Spar, Marqt and Deen only Fairtrade bananas are being sold. Regarding other tropical fruits, take a look at Switzerland: their product range is wide, ranging from pineapple and avocado to pomegranate and mango, to passion fruit and lemon.

In Germany, limes and oranges, passion fruits, papaya and physalis were available in smaller quantities in 2017. Their total sales were around 4,700 tons.

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