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Bananas in peril warns Fairtrade Foundation

The sustainability of banana production is under threat from a potent mix of adverse weather, plant disease and soaring production costs.

The stark warning was issued by the Fairtrade Foundation which is calling for banana farmers to be paid a fair price that covers their cost of production in order to remain financially viable.

The UK has among the highest per capita consumption of bananas in Europe and imports on average more than a million tonnes a year. The Fairtrade Foundation however warned that a legacy of low supermarket prices only served to devalue bananas in a way that is unsustainable.

“The consequences of climate change for banana production are very real,” said Anna Pierides, the Fairtrade Foundation’s responsible business senior manager for bananas, speaking at the World Banana Forum in March. “Farmers are battling daily with unpredictable weather patterns, scorching sun, floods, hurricanes, and increased cases of plant diseases. All these are hitting producers hard.”

She added that soaring production costs including fertiliser, pallets, plastic packaging and labour “are adding extra pressure to already fragile livelihoods”.

“Without fair prices, banana farmers simply cannot make ends meet. If banana producers are unable to cover their costs, they are unable to stay in business,” Pierides said.

The Fairtrade Foundation has called on buyers to purchase Fairtrade bananas which guarantees farmers are paid a minimum price that covers their average costs of production.

Pierides said the organisation is also working closely with plantations and small holder organisations to focus on farm practices and a diversified crop base to mitigate climate risks, improve income opportunities, biodiversity and soil health.