UK retailers urged to join action that ensures banana workers earn living wage

UK retailers are being urged to join a Fairtrade initiative that would ensure banana workers earn their country’s living wage as a minimum.

Fairtrade International is launching the new action aiming to achieve living wages, living incomes and resilient banana supply chains on plantations across the world.

The organisation said it hopes to deliver decent incomes for workers on Fairtrade certified plantations across the world and help retailers, including UK firms, to fulfil sustainability commitments.

It added that more than 35,658 workers and farmers employed by 265 Fairtrade banana producers stand to benefit from the action.

Kerrina Thorogood, partnerships director at the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “We would strongly urge UK businesses and retailers to get behind this unique offer to deepen sustainability in the banana sector.

“We hope more UK companies will partner with us in the journey towards achieving living wages for the people behind the bananas that are much loved by British consumers.”

She added: “Our new initiative represents a clear and tangible step forward in the drive to deliver decent wages for workers who grow Fairtrade bananas.”

Fairtrade has also developed a new banana dashboard with all the necessary data to enable traders and retailers to report progress back to their stakeholders.

The initiative combines three elements – the Fairtrade Minimum Price (FMP), Living Wage Reference Price and Fairtrade Living Wage Differential (LWD) – designed to help close the living wage gap.

The publicly available LWRP is calculated by Fairtrade to determine what a typical farmer household with a viable farm size and a sustainable productivity level needs in order to earn a living income from the sales of their crop.

The Fairtrade Minimum Price is the extra amount earned by selling on Fairtrade terms and the Fairtrade Living Wage Differential is an additional voluntary payment per box of bananas sold, as a contribution towards a full living wage.

An elected workers’ Premium Committee on each plantation can distribute additional cash payments from the Fairtrade Premium to close the living wage gap.

As part of the launch, Fairtrade has also announced an average increase of 0.2% in the Fairtrade Minimum Price for “free on board” bananas – the purchase price for importing traders – which comes into effect from January 2024.

The Fairtrade Premium – the additional 82p per box of bananas sold – remains unchanged, the organisation added.

Silvia Campos, Fairtrade International’s senior adviser for bananas, said: “Our key commercial partners are increasingly demanding the tools and the data to enable them to fulfil their commitments to pay a fair price so that banana workers can earn a living wage.

“Our unique offer is a game changer for workers, traders and retailers.

“Fairtrade is working to strengthen protection for banana producers, workers and their families as they struggle to cope with mounting economic costs, climate change, human rights risks and the need to adopt more sustainable agricultural practices.

“Despite some slight reductions in the price of fuel and fertilisers, banana producers are still suffering from post-pandemic losses.

“They simply can’t afford to pay higher wages or invest in the future of their farms.”

Marike de Pena, president of the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Fair Trade Small Producers and Workers, said: “The combination of an updated minimum price and a commitment by many of our major commercial partners is a real cause for optimism.

“Fairtrade’s unique offer is a win for plantation workers and a win for traders and retailers. I believe this service will lead to more companies sourcing more bananas under Fairtrade terms.”