"UK: Public "a-peel" to Asda and Tesco to stock more Fairtrade bananas"

Consumers and campaigners across the UK are calling on Asda and Tesco to prove that banana farmers and workers in the developing world are not suffering as a result of supermarket price wars, by sourcing more Fairtrade bananas. Tens of thousands of messages asking them to make the switch are expected to be sent to Asda and Tesco supermarkets during November, when retailers typically negotiate supplier contracts for the year ahead.

Bananas are the UK’s favourite fruit – the UK public spends over £700m eating 5 billion of them a year – yet instead of making a decent living, many banana farmers that supply the UK are struggling to get by. For instance in Ecuador, one of the UK’s biggest suppliers, only 1 in 4 families working in the banana industry earns enough to take them above the poverty line. [1]

The UK retail price of loose bananas has almost halved over the past 10 years, while the cost of producing them has doubled[2]. Banana farmers and workers are paying the price for the nation's cheap fruit, with many trapped in an unrelenting cycle of poverty. But retailers who source their bananas as Fairtrade[3] can assure their customers that despite retail price wars, farmers and workers producing the fruit continue to receive agreed, transparent Fairtrade prices and premiums.

Currently, one in three bananas sold in the UK is Fairtrade. Asda and Tesco are the focus of the public campaign as the two biggest sellers of bananas in the UK that still stock some non-Fairtrade bananas. In fact, both currently source less than 10% of their bananas on Fairtrade terms.

UK consumers care about the conditions faced by the farmers and workers who grow their bananas, and want an independent assurance that retailers are doing the right thing. More than eight in ten shoppers (including 85% of Asda shoppers and 84% of Tesco shoppers) say they would pay more for their bananas if the farmers and workers who produced them benefit as a result[4] .

A recent survey by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that almost two thirds of UK shoppers don't think it is good enough for retail companies to say that they are ethical, they need to prove it [5] . When it comes to farmers and workers getting a fair deal, shoppers say they trust independent third-party certification more than retailers' own claims, with Fairtrade being the label they trust most to ensure that farmers and workers get a fair deal[6].

In a recent study of plantations in Colombia, the main origin for all bananas sold in the UK, 96% of farmers said their economic situation had improved, on average by 34% since joining Fairtrade. 100% of workers employed on Fairtrade certified plantations in Colombia who were interviewed by researchers, stated that their quality of life was better under Fairtrade[7], with strong unionisation also being a factor.

Michael Gidney, Chief Executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: "It seems absurd that bananas are the UK’s most popular fruit, yet many of the people who grow them are living in poverty. This isn’t what UK consumers want - they care about the conditions faced by the people who grow our food, and they want an independent assurance that retailers are doing the right thing. If Waitrose, Sainsbury's and the Co-operative can sell 100% Fairtrade bananas, then Asda and Tesco can do better than their current offering of less than 10% Fairtrade, and no Fairtrade in some stores. That’s why we’re supporting members of the public to send a message to Asda or Tesco, asking them to switch to Fairtrade bananas. It’s a simple action but by acting now, when retailers are negotiating their contracts for the year ahead, there’s a chance to make a more significant difference to the lives of banana farmers and workers in the developing world, as well as their communities.”

Please visit www.fairtrade.org.uk/bananas for more information.

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