Approximately 760,000 tonnes of bananas are shipped to the UK each year. In 1998, bananas overtook apples as the nation’s favourite fruit. Around 140m bananas are consumed each week, making a total of 7bn per year.
In 2000, sales of bananas reached £750m, approximately 28% of all fruit sales by value. For supermarkets, bananas are the highest value grocery item – only petrol and lottery tickets generate higher sales and the profits on the latter are smaller.
Bananas are used as a key promotional item by the large supermarkets to attract consumers into their stores. There is fierce competition to offer the lowest priced bananas and when one chain reduces the price, the rest usually follow.
In January this year, Asda and Morrisons slashed the price of their bananas from 87p per kg to 78p per kg. The cost reductions are passed down the supply chain with the end result being that plantation owners receive an amount which does not cover the cost of production.
Alistair Smith, co-ordinator of the campaign group Banana Link said, “This is another blow for plantation workers and small farmers who thought that supermarkets had finally understood the consequences of pushing down prices. The move also flies in the face of evidence that most consumers want to know that the products they buy are not traded at the cost of decent wages and conditions in developing countries”.
Purchase of Fairtrade bananas helps to provide a better income for thousands of farming families in the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa.
[i] ‘Unpeeling the Banana Trade, Fairtrade Foundation August 2000 and UK National Food Survey 2000
[ii] The Banana Group, 2002, http://www.thebananagroup.uk.net/htmldocs/factsframe.html
[iii] Kathy Hammond, Fresh Produce Journal, “From battleground to banana domination”, April 2002