”Nobody uses us anymore”

Saúl Armijos could afford to improve his farm after he joined Fair Trade 10 years ago.

Saúl Armijos could afford to improve his farm after he joined Fair Trade 10 years ago.

-The small farmers have always been taken advantage of by the big exporters, but not in Fair Trade, says Saúl Armijos.

He has grown bananas for 22 years, and joined Fair Trade 10 years ago.

-My neighbour Jorge Ramírez was Asoguabo’s first president, and he encouraged me to join. Before joining, I had to work on other banana plantations than my own, but in Fair Trade I got a much better price for my bananas.

When I ask him how his life changed with Fair Trade, his face lights up in a big smile, and he pats the basin he’s leaning against.

-I didn’t have this before. I had a small, old water basin to wash the bananas in – that one in the middle, he says, pointing at the smallest one of the three washing basins.

-I didn’t have packing facilities, and the truck I could afford thanks to Fair Trade. All this I did thanks to the co-op. And the fairtrade premium has helped us. We’ve used it for lending money to irrigation and fertilization projects, for example.

Each one of the 15 member associations in the co-op get 20 cents of the one-dollar-a-box fairtrade premium. In Armijos’ member association Barbones, that money has been used for producing organic fertilizer for the members. With the premium money they also pay the farmers 400 dollars in case they get sick.

-I’ve liked working in Fair Trade, but the fair price is not so good. It used to help us a lot, because it was better than the market price. But today it’s not anymore.

The last few years, the average market price outside Fair Trade has been higher than the price Fair Trade pays.

-But what else do we have? No one else buys our bananas, says Armijos.

The big companies are rarely interested in small farmers’ bananas, and the small farmers have to sell to middlemen that pocket part of the money.

What do you want to say to the consumers?

-To be concious of the fact that we grow a clean banana. And to arrange a campaign for people to buy more fairtrade bananas!

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “”Nobody uses us anymore”

  1. Hi Annika
    I’m really enjoying the way in which you are telling the banana producers stories. It’s great you are sharing these through your blog.

    Regarding the fair trade price – I was very interested to read in your last 2 blogs that the fair trade price for bananas is lower than the market price, and has been for some time.

    I had assumed (or read somewhere) that FLO sets a minimum fair trade price, and if the market price was higher, than the fair trade price would match the market price (and then the premium paid on top of that).

    Thanks for sharing the reality of the situation – the questions you are asking the farmers give a wonderful insight into the affect of Fair Trade on the farmers – both positively in the past and not so good now with the comparison to the market price.

  2. Annika

    hi!
    fairtrade does set a floor price, but the floor price is always the same and doesnt follow the market price. Right now the floor price for bananas in Ecuador is 7,75 dollars (for conventional bananas). But the farmers get less, because the fairtrade premium and the exportation costs are deduced. This is pretty low because the production costs have gone up a lot in the last ten years whereas the floor price hasn`t changed.
    The market price has been as high as 14 dollars this year, so the difference is big.
    But FLO is revising the floor prices, and the farmers are hoping that they will be raised.

  3. Hi Annika
    Thanks for your reply. I am intrigued by the inconsistencies of what is really happening for the farmers and what I understand to be the criteria set down by FLO.

    I have read in quite a number of places (as well as on the FLO website) that the Fairtrade Premium is a payment in addition to the Fairtrade Minimum Price.

    So when you say that the Fairtrade Premium is deducted from the Fairtrade (floor) price it seems inconsistent with FLO’s intent on the premium being a separate payment to be invested in the development of producer organisations, their families and communities.

    It’s a shame too that the fair trade price has not been changed quickly to respond to the market – 10 years is a long time for the floor price to remain the same!!!

  4. Annika

    Hi!
    Sorry, I was unclear in my answer! The floor price IS separated from the premium! The floor price is 6,75 and the premium 1 dollar, which adds up to 7,75 which is the fairtrade price i was talking about. The premium always goes to social and environmental projects and not to the farmers directly. In the case of Asoguabo, the program Promesa is in charge of the premium money which has a separate budget.
    If you go back and read my earlier entries, you´ll notice that I´ve written about this earlier. I would strongly recommend that you read my earlier entries too, because a lot of the questions you are asking I´ve already written about earlier, so if you go back you´ll find the answers and get a deeper picture than by just reading the new entries. Here´s one about the fair price and another about the premium.

  5. Thanks Annika
    Your previous blogs have give me a clearer sense of the market.

    Will continue to follow your stories with great interest.

  6. Annika

    great! but i´ll only be here fo two more weeks, then it´s time for me to go back to Finland…

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