What are Fair Trade Bananas?

Harriette Halepis

Fair trade bananas are bananas that come from farmer organizations and plantations that treat workers humanely and pay workers fairly. Contrastingly, bananas that are not considered fair trade frequently come from large plantations that typically exploit workers. At present, nearly eighty-five percent of bananas sold around the world are controlled by five large corporations.

Fair trade bananas.
Fair trade bananas.

People who work on large plantations owned by massive corporations often work twelve- to fourteen-hour days without being paid any amount of overtime. In addition, working conditions are often harsh and hazardous. In order to keep costs down, many large banana plantations actively use massive amount of fungicides and pesticides in order to rid crops of bugs. These chemicals are harmful to workers who must breathe chemically-laden air. Further, the chemicals that are used to spray bananas have an impact on people and the environment, since many of these chemicals seep into streams, pastures, and water supplies.

Fruit growing on a banana plant.
Fruit growing on a banana plant.

Those farmers who are considered fair trade farmers are guaranteed a just production price. Production profits are used to harvest chemical-free, fair trade bananas. These farmers are also given a premium price per box of bananas, which cannot be used for production purposes. Under fair trade law, the premium amount paid to farmers must be used to pay workers a fair and consistent wage.

Additionally, all farmers who are part of a fair trade organization must split profits equally, which gives every farmer the same stake in an organization. Thus, all fair trade farmers make mutual decisions regarding crops, workers, and wages. People who work for fair trade plantations are also allowed to form workers' unions. Unions of this sort are not permitted on most plantations that are not considered fair trade.

One other important aspect of a fair trade plantation is the age of the workers permitted to harvest bananas. Larger plantations that are not considered fair trade frequently employ children who are under the age of fifteen. Fair trade plantations are not allowed to hire children who are under the age of fifteen. Further, children who are older than fifteen years of age must attend school on a regular basis, and cannot be asked to partake in any activity that will impact a child's health.

Fair trade bananas tend to be more expensive than bananas produced by massive plantations, though this extra cost is passed on to farmers and workers rather than given to large corporations. To find fair trade bananas, search for bananas that have a "fair trade" sticker. In addition to fair trade bananas, many other crops are considered fair trade, including coffee, honey, rice, juice, flowers, cotton, and various others.

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