Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Yes, We Have No Bananas

I’ve been buying Fair Trade coffee for a few years now, an action made easier by local Fair Trade coffee roasters’ presence in all the grocery stores here in town. (Shameless plug: I especially like Cafe Fair’s Cordilleran blend; and Just Coffee’s Maya Superdark.)

But I also read a lot of blogs from the UK, where I noticed they’re really ahead of the U.S. in expanding Fair Trade with things like Fair Trade Coffee Breaks in churches and businesses, and even
entire Fair Trade regions, like the Welsh Fair Trade Valley of Dyfi, pictured at right. I was thinking of this recently when Coop America sent an email about Fair Trade bananas. I’d never stopped to think about how bananas are grown, but it turns out the South American workers are paid just pennies, which keeps prices cheap for us in North America while still providing massive profits to the two multinational corporations that control most of the market.

Coop America has a letter (really more of a petition) they’re creating to send to the major national grocery chains encouraging them to stock Fair Trade bananas. When you sign they ask that you also note which chain(s) you patronize, so the letter will have more impact. They also provide suggestions for individuals on how to work with supermarket mangers in one’s own town.

Today’s mitzvah: Learn more about Fair Trade products. An easy place to start: Coop America’s “What is Fair Trade?” and “What You Can Do.”

Photo © Ecodyfi: A Fair Trade Valley.

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Emily said...

I'm glad to see the Fair Trade banana idea picking up steam, and hope it continues to do so--especially if it means more variety in the types of bananas grown, and by whom.

One case of blight, and pretty much the world supply of bananas would be wiped out (think Irish potato famine), because the big corps. that grow the ones we get here in the US have been inbreeding them for ages. Read more here.

Plus, there's that whole Banana republic thing.

jen x said...

Yep, United Fruit had its hand in a lot more than bananas. I think this got downplayed in the intervening years via a few name changes into the little blue sticker kids like to put on their foreheads.