Always ask questions about the products you buy from the companies that you buy them from. Ask what they are doing in practice to ensure fair prices are paid and decent conditions respected. Take part in a “trade fair“or fair trade campaign in your country. Share your views with friends, colleagues, and policymakers. Buy fair trade products wherever possible. Ask shops to stock fair trade products. Spread the word to friends, colleagues, family and fellow members of organisations to which you belong.
In the UK, you can buy Fair Trade bananas and pineapples at nearly all supermarkets and in a growing number of independent shops.
No, because it will mean plantation workers or small farmers being squeezed out of the market. In some very special cases, such as where particularly serious violations of rights have taken place, a short-term consumer boycott call may be made by a trade union or small farmers’ organisation, but these are rare. However, if you cannot buy Fairtrade-certified fruit, we ask consumers to press companies selling bananas to be transparent about the social, economic and environmental conditions in their supply chains and to move towards fair production and trading practices. If companies are unwilling to give sufficient information or are negative about the changes we propose, we can choose to buy bananas from countries or companies where we believe conditions to be better for those who do most of the work to produce them.
Yes, since 1998, eight of the most basic international labour conventions have to be respected by all members of the United Nations, regardless of whether their national government has actually ratified them. These include that:
To read the full list of conventions visit labourstart.org. A long list of other important international labour standards have been ratified by many tropical fruit exporting countries. The problem is a lack of enforcement of some or all of these international laws by governments (not just in producing countries either). The International Labour Organisation of the United Nations has so far not been mandated by its member governments to apply effective sanctions to countries that do not comply with this international legislation.
The lack of enforcement of international and national legislation to protect workers’ rights can be because of a lack of human and financial resources to do so or, more often in tropical fruit exporting countries, because of a lack of political will. In some countries the voice of organised workers is disregarded or the government services are corrupt. Some fruit companies have close connections to people in governments whom they have persuaded not to enforce the law properly, or governments have chosen to interpret it according to their own criteria, as in the case of Costa Rica. In countries with weak or no independent trade unions, the voice of workers is not heard either by employers or governments. An even more serious problem occurs in a country like Guatemala, where criminal or paramilitary organisations control whole regions and no government services are able to operate effectively. Those who raise their voices are in danger of their lives; some are killed for doing so.
In producing countries poor standards are often the responsibility of governments and fruit companies, sometimes acting in collusion with each other. However, the price paid for bananas by many fruit companies and, increasingly, by some of the bigger international supermarket buyers from the consuming countries is too low for those producers who actively want to raise their standards to do so and stay in business. Ultimately then, it is we consumers who have a vital role to play, because of our relatively strong position in the chain. It will be thanks to our access to information and to our willingness to act on this information – by using our buying power and our role as citizens responsibly – that we can help organised workers and farmers raise standards.
Most European consumers are paying relatively little money for tropical fruit from the other side of the world because the real Costs of Sustainable Production (COSP) are not included in conventional prices along the chain. Downward pressure from the fruit companies and now the supermarket chains has kept the price low. Until now these companies have not come under any pressure to recognise that COSP need to be included in the prices all along the chain. In most cases, this means that fair trade products, where a minimum price is calculated on the basis of the real costs of producing a socially and environmentally responsible product, are more expensive.
In some countries, retailers make higher margins on fair trade and Organic because they do not have a policy of making these products accessible to all consumers. On the other hand, in the UK, some fair trade banana retailers have chosen to compete in price wars with their rivals by cutting prices when other supermarkets do. We believe that both strategies can and should be challenged by consumers. Tropical fruit can and should be sold at a price accessible to most if not all consumers without exploiting people or harming the environment.