Gaspar Cornejo in Rio Joya puts his hand on the pile of organic-marked banana boxes.
-This week Asoguabo gave me boxes for conventional bananas too. It’s the first time that happens since I became a member in 2003.
What’s happened is that the importer can’t sell all the organic bananas he produces. The rest has to be sold at a cheaper price, as conventional bananas without the organic label, even though they actually are organic.
-I asked for 65 boxes but I only got 40. The rest are sold as conventional bananas. Because I have to get rid of the bananas even if they pay me less.
He hopes the market doesn’t shrink so he can’t increase his production. Because he has to if the banana growing is going to be profitable.
-I can’t say that the price for organic bananas is good. I get 7,40 dollars per box. It’s expensive to take care of the farm. It costs to fertilize and treat the fruits with organic pesticides every week. I have two full time employees and two more on harvest days. The bags and covers for the bananas cost. The gas costs. I get paid, I buy – and get left with nothing. The price covers the cost of production but nothing more.
Fair Trade’s minimum price for organic bananas is 8,50 dollars per box. Asoguabo’s importer pays a little more. The money goes to the cooperative, that decides how much the farmer gets after the cooperative’s expenses.
But in addition to that, the importer pays a fairtrade premium of one dollar a box, that is used for different projects to help the farmers.
-Asoguabo gives loans and financial help, and without that I couldn’t have increased my production from five boxes a week to 40-60. But for banana growing to be profitable, I would need to sell 70-80 boxes a week, says Cornejo.