The Future of Authentic Fair Trade Bananas: A Conference

Equal Exchange founded P6 in 2009 with a group of six committed consumer co-ops. The vision for P6 sprouted out of Equal Exchange’s deep commitments to creating an alternative, more equitable and just food system and years of leadership in building authentic fair trade supply chains. Equal Exchange has worked for over two decades to transform the coffee, tea, and chocolate industries, and more recently, Equal Exchange has expanded work into one of the most historically exploitative international food industries- bananas. Many P6 member stores are now proud to offer their customers Equal Exchange bananas. This past weekend, Equal Exchange created an opportunity for retail co-ops to meet face to face with leaders from the farmer co-ops that produce the bananas that arrive in our produce departments, and with other industry experts from across the world working to change the face of the banana industry.

Fair trade bananas are a crucial element to a P6 food system. The banana industry has been, and continues to be, one of the most exploitative international industries around. It represents concentration of wealth and power. The industry is predicated on absolute basement floor level pricing, meaning somewhere (or everywhere) corners are being cut. Bananas make it to our shelves at a shockingly low price — something consumers are now very accustomed to—at the cost of human bodies and lives, extreme environmental abuse, and corruption along the chain. We are excited to help consumers a way to directly support cooperative producers of bananas as an alternative to  perpetuating the century and a half of crushing exploitation at the hands of banana multinationals.

Fabiola Ramon (r), president of the banana-growers’ El Guabo Co-operatve, spoke at the conference.

Eastside Food Co-op, Seward Community Co-op, and Willy Street Co-op were all in attendance. Eastside’s P6 coordinator Abby Rae LaCombe said, “It is great to be part of a network that is striving to revolutionize the trade system. A network that spans generations and isn’t motivated by just profit, sales, or success in business, but by the ethics we were told we’d outgrow once we ‘got a little older…’ Co-ops and values-driven retailers create change. Our dedication to educating consumers reflects our responsibility for starting and continuing the important conversations about the truth of our food system. With the challenges facing not just the phrase ‘fair trade’ but the ideal of supporting small producers across the globe, we must continue to build excitement among those core consumers who will continue to demand changes from the mainstream. We set the bar for ethical consumption and in doing so, we must be brave and take risks, because that is what our customers, and the small farmers we all rely on, expect of us.”

Presentations from the workshops can be found here. More information about Equal Exchange’s work about bananas can be found at www.beyondthepeel.com.

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