Jose Antonio Hidalgo, executive director of the Association of Banana Exporters of Ecuador (Aebe), spoke with Semana about the general concern about the low prices being paid for bananas and about the certifications required by the European market.
"Supermarkets say they have optional requirements; but if your product does not comply with those requirements, they don't buy it. That means they're not optional requirements. They demand different things but they don't pay more for doing them. We've told the supermarkets that we would like to see a study where customers enter the supermarket and say ‘I want a banana with the frog seal’ and ’I want to pay more for this seal’. So one of our drawbacks is that the ‘From farm to table’ strategy makes things more expensive, and another drawback is that supermarkets don't want to pay for that cost of sustainability. In addition, certifiers generate additional pressure. They say producers are being compensated, but the truth is they're not."
"It is a big economic sustainability issue. The region is very committed to sustainability, with all that it requires, but the EU cannot be inconsistent. They can't request something that costs us more while their supermarkets want to pay less."
"We have joined in this regional work to technically question the certifiers. We started in April 2020 with countries such as Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Panama and we carried out some technical work to show the certifier that some of the ways they were updating to the standard were generating more costs and were not necessary to achieve sustainability. Together we can build a standard that is sustainable, but also cost-efficient. Our region accounts for 65% of global production, so we managed to change 108 points of that update of the Rainforest standard of 2020."
“We have also worked with the governments. The Ministers of Agriculture of all the banana countries met on January 12 of this year, and they ratified the private sector's position, which we have been promoting, of seeking the EU to assume shared responsibility. The technical proposal is that supermarkets follow the Fairtrade methodology. What is the Fairtrade methodology? Fairtrade has an analysis of the cost structure of each country. We must discuss that model because it is a model that works.”
"We have to continue to position the message that the effort to produce a quality banana at the Latin American level has to be recognized and that certifiers cannot take on a role of imposing supranational standards to fight among themselves to see which is the greenest."