Sainsbury's goes bananas over Fairtrade

By staff writers
December 12, 2006

The Fairtrade Foundation has confirmed that today's announcement by supermarket chain Sainsbury's that all its banana supplies will be Fairtrade certified, is the biggest ever commitment to date by a single company anywhere in the world.

Sainsbury's sells 2000 tonnes of bananas (or about 10 million individual bananas ) each week. This move, when completed, will therefore more than double the volume of Fairtrade bananas bought by Britain’s increasingly Fairtrade-minded shoppers and extend the unique benefits of the Fairtrade guarantee to thousands more farmers and workers in Central & South America and the Caribbean.

Producer organisations will receive a stable price that covers their full costs of production, plus an extra 1 US Dollar per box of bananas (18 kilos) for investment which is known as the 'Fairtrade premium'. As a key part of its commitment to Fairtrade, Sainsbury’s has also strengthened its commitment to maintaining long-term relationships with Fairtrade certified small-scale farmers in the Windward Islands and the Dominican Republic.

Fairtrade has already proven to be a lifeline for Caribbean banana-growing smallholders after years of declining incomes in the face of cut-throat global competition.

Recognising the importance of Fairtrade to the whole Windwards Islands' economies, Dr Kenny D Anthony, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, has responded to Sainsbury’s announcement saying: "In this era of competitive global trade, small-scale farmers like ours have little or no chance of survival without the kind of market intervention that is provided through fairtrade. Not only does Fairtrade guarantee a fair price to our farmers, but the social premium that is generated through the Fairtrade sales provides invaluable support for projects in rural communities throughout the Windward Islands".

The Sainsbury's announcement, together with expected growth elsewhere in the UK market, means that the Windward Islands could be selling all of their bananas under Fairtrade terms by the end of 2007. Smallholder producers in the Dominican Republic will also be selling more of their bananas under Fairtrade terms and new farming groups there and in Colombia will be able to sell their bananas for the first time to the UK Fairtrade market.

Fairtrade banana growers can look forward to being able to make improvements in their communities through increased Fairtrade sales and the extra 3-5 million US Dollars these will generate in Fairtrade premiums.

Fairtrade banana growers have already decided to use Fairtrade premiums from past sales for a variety of projects including improving roads and school buildings, and paying for computers and sports facilities at schools and colleges. In St Lucia, the Fairtrade premium has paid for sterilising equipment at one of the two hospitals which between them serve the island’s 160,000 people.

Fairtrade also strengthens growers' communities by promoting democratic processes, through which the farmers and workers decide how to spend the Fairtrade premiums. Moreover, with better access to education and healthcare and the provision of basic facilities such as safe water suppliers and sanitation, Fairtrade is helping communities make progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

This move by Sainsbury', which is Britain's second largest food retailer with a 17% market share, is the latest example of a trend that has seen sales of Fairtrade products double every two years since the start of the decade. Nearly seven years since the first Fairtrade bananas were sold in Britain, today's announcement by Sainsbury’s shows Fairtrade moving even further into the mainstream and how consumers now expect what they buy to have been produced and traded with respect and fairness for the people behind the products.

As well as bringing real change to the lives of the banana farming communities directly affected, the substantive switch that Sainsbury's has made also sends out a powerful message to the rest of the retail industry, demonstrating the rising level of public consciousness about the necessity for trade to be sustainable, and of a desire by consumers to make a difference through their shopping choices.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.