Supermarkets force out small farmers from Fair Trade

The smallest farmers are facing a tough time in fair trade, at least in Asoguabo.

Next year they may be suspended if they can’t produce 48 boxes of bananas per week.

Why?

It’s the market’s fault. Not even Fair Trade can save the small farmers from the market forces.

48 is the number of banana boxes that fit on a pallet. The supermarkets in Italy, Switzerland and Austria want all boxes on a pallet to come from the same farm. Italy analyses every farmer’s bananas every week, which is a lot of work. Switzerland wants all the bananas on a pallet to look the same.

Different farmers harvest their bananas after slightly different growing periods, which means they ripen at different speeds. If the bananas on a pallet come from five different producers, they can have five different shades of yellow. The supermarkets want them all to look the same.

The other one of the market’s demands is called Globalgap. It’s a standard more and more supermarkets in Europe demand after food scandals like the mad cow disease. That’s why Asoguabo’s import company Agrofair has decided that all the fruit that’s exported to Europe must come from Globalgap-certified farms beginning on june 1st. The standard demands, among other things, that there should be a toilet and a lunch area at the packing station, and that the farmer keep records of all the agricultural products he uses. That’s a problem for the small producer, who can’t afford to invest in a toilet, maybe can’t even write.

Asoguabo is already demanding that farmers produce a minimum of 25 boxes per week, or else they’re suspended from the cooperative until they can produce the minimum amount. Tens have been suspended. Many plant more bananas to be able to stay in the cooperative, but some only produce three-five boxes a week. They have a long way to go.

-We want to stick to the minimum of 25 boxes per week. It’s not an impossible demand. The farmers have to become more efficient. A farmer who just produces three-five boxes is not a bananero, but a hobby farmer. They have to decide if they want to be banana farmers or not, says Asoguabo’s managing director Lianne Zoeteweij.

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