-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!