Shoppers across the UK have bombarded Asda and Tesco’s head offices and local stores with more than 100,000 emails over the last four weeks, in a public campaign that calls for the retailers to switch their bananas to Fairtrade.
In Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and London, Fairtrade supporters have been campaigning outside branches of Asda and Tesco, and outside Asda’s Leeds HQ, dressed as bananas and holding aloft a 5m inflatable banana emblazoned with a clear and simple message for the retailers: ‘Go Fairtrade’.
Together, Asda and Tesco sell almost half of the 5bn bananas that UK shoppers buy each year, but both source less than 10% of their bananas on Fairtrade terms.
As a result of supermarket price wars, the price of loose bananas has almost halved over the past 10 years while the cost of producing them has doubled. Banana farmers and workers often pay the price, with many of them trapped in poverty, according to the Fairtrade Foundation. But retailers who source bananas on Fairtrade terms, such as Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and The Co-operative, can provide shoppers with an independent assurance that whatever price they pay for bananas at the till, the producers have earned a stable price that aims to cover the cost of sustainable production, as well as an additional 10% – 16% paid as a Fairtrade Premium which can be invested as the farmers choose, in their businesses and communities.
Fairtrade also provides an independent assurance on workers’ rights and working conditions. For example, Fairtrade requires plantation owners to pay workers at least the national minimum wage (or the regional average wage, or wages set by collective bargaining agreements, if higher) and to move towards a Living Wage over time. Fairtrade has already established a Living Wage benchmark for banana producers in the Dominican Republic and by 2015, the Fairtrade system will have established living wage benchmarks for all banana exporting countries.
UK shoppers care about the conditions that banana farmers and workers face, with more than eight in ten Asda and Tesco shoppers saying they would pay more for their bananas if the farmers and workers who produced them benefit. UK shoppers trust independent third-party certification more than retailers’ ethical claims, with Fairtrade being the label they trust most to ensure that farmers and workers get a fair deal.
Jonathan Smith, head of campaigns at Fairtrade Foundation, said: “Shoppers across the UK are sending a clear message to Asda and Tesco – they want an independent assurance that banana farmers and workers are not paying the price for their cheap fruit. As yet we have heard nothing of substance from Asda, but we hope that they act soon in response to the public’s concerns. Since the launch of Fairtrade’s campaign, Tesco has made some new public commitments about the way in which it sources its bananas, including a pledge to pay living wages to workers on banana plantations by 2017, and we would support all retailers to move on this issue. However, we are still waiting for commitment to independent verification. This is what the UK public are calling for, and what we believe is vital in order to protect the interests of both farmers and workers in the developing world, and shoppers here in the UK.”