The recent decision of the German supermarket chain ALDI to unilaterally lower the purchase price of the banana box by 2021 has been received with unanimous rejection from Latin American banana producers and exporters, including the Ecuadorian Banana Cluster; the Association of Independent Producers of Bananas of Guatemala; the Association of National Banana Producers of Honduras; the Association of Banana Growers of Colombia; the Association of Banana Growers from Magdalena and La Guajira, also from Colombia; and the National Banana Corporation and the Association of Banana Producers of Costa Rica.
Latin American banana growers argue that continuing to reduce the price of this fruit (the cheapest available to consumers in the world) undermines their chances of meeting the requirements that the German retailer itself demands of them, in terms of environmental, social and economic sustainability. Especially at a time as critical as that of the health and economic crisis caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Given the purchasing power conferred by its contract, the largest in Europe, ALDI determines the price of bananas, setting the reference price for all other retailers, reports Pedro Morazán, an economist of Honduran origin of the German Institute for Economics and Ecumenism SÜDWIND.
According to the British NGO Banana Link, which works to ensure the fair and sustainable trade of bananas and pineapples, the European supermarket has proposed buying the 18 kg box of the fruit, which today costs just 12.41 Euro, for only 11.33 Euro. This is allowing a kilo of bananas from Latin America to be much cheaper in Germany than one of apples.
History repeats itself
There was already a similar protest by Latin American banana growers against the price of ALDI's annual banana contract for 2019, which then pledged to "listen and learn", to promote a more sustainable banana industry, recalls Banana Link. But while the price of 12.41 Euro for a standard box of bananas that the company set on its suppliers for 2020 reversed the 54 cent reduction of 2019, the plan for 2021 is reducing the price per box by 1.08 Euro.
"The producers have made great financial efforts to keep 99% of the farms certified and to supply a fruit produced in an environmentally-friendly manner while also taking the needs of the workers into account," said the Costa Rican corporation Corbana in 2018. And they warned: "This great threat will make it necessary for the banana-producing countries of Latin America, which supply 75% of the bananas imported by the European Union, to join forces in a unified bloc." Two years later, producers and exporters are faced with the same challenge.