-We want to ask the supermarkets to be more flexible, say Diana Sagbay and her mother Blanca Fagardo in Rio Joya when I ask them what they want to tell the banana buyers in Europe.
-They demand such big volumes from us. We can’t produce a certain volume all year. In the cold winter months the fruits don’t grow as well. We can’t make 48 boxes of bananas big enough to sell every week.
30-35 boxes is more realistic during the winter. But the supermarkets in Europe want a pallet, 48 boxes, per shipment, to reduce their handling costs when quality checking each producers’ bananas.
-And we can’t postpone the harvesting to the next week either. If the fruit isn’t harvested at the right time, it ripens before it reaches Europe.
The Sagbay family’s farm is agroforestal, a mixed farm. In addition to organic bananas, they grow cacao and citric fruits, and other trees are also allowed to grow on the farm.
-It’s different than monocropping, where you only grow a single crop. It’s better for nature, and means that the bananas aren’t our only source of income, says Diana.
When I visit the family, they’re packing their organic bananas into boxes with as well as without the organic label. That week the importer has a hard time selling organic bananas, which are more expensive. So they have to sell part of the organic bananas as conventional bananas.
-That also means that we get paid less for the bananas even though they’re more expensive to produce. But that’s okay. At least we don’t lose the fruits, says Diana.
Her father Angel joined Asoguabo in 2003. Before that, they sold to a middleman who sold the fruits to a plantation. They never knew how much the middleman made off their fruits, they got paid with long intervals and the price varied. That’s why they went to Asoguabo.
-Now we have a secure place to sell to, we get paid every week and we get a stable price. We get training in taking care of the farm, and technical assistance.