issue 317 - October 1999
‘Before you’ve finished eating breakfast this morning,
you’ve depended on half the world.’
Martin Luther King
The Banana Charter
Ever since a large international conference in May 1998, groups with an interest in the banana trade have been linking up around the world to develop a common project for change. The main action points include:
The World Trade Organization:
The private sector:
The European Union regime:
The World Trade Organization
In November there’s a ministerial meeting of the WTO in Seattle. On the table are proposals for the next ‘Millennium Round’ of trade talks. The meeting will also be a focus for non-governmental groups to raise their concerns about globalization and free trade – including the WTO rulings on the Banana War. In particular there is a need to change the WTO rule (Article III) which prevents countries from favouring imports of goods which are more sustainably produced.
More bananas are consumed here per head of the population than anywhere else in the world.
The Soil and Health Association,
PO Box 36-170, Northcote.
Tel: +64 9 443 8435.
Chiquita South Pacific are rapidly expanding in Australia and will need careful watching. The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) certifies organic production in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. A very good starting point for anybody seeking out organic produce, certification processes and the like.
Biological Farmers of Australia,
PO Box 3404, Toowoomba,
QLD 4350. Tel: +61 7 4639 3299. Fax: +61 7 4639 3755.
Good Foods Co-op,
91 Musgrave Road, Red Hill, QLD 4059.
Tel: +61 7 3369 0898. Fax: +61 7 3876 2757.
Eco-Consumer, c/o Queensland Conservation Council,
PO Box 12046, Elizabeth Street, Brisbane 4002.
Tel: +61 7 221 0188.
Many groups, including the World Development Movement, Oxfam and Christian Aid, have been vigorously campaigning on the banana trade for several years. Links with the labour movement are particularly strong. There are plans to introduce a fair-trade banana in the near future. Banana Link has produced a detailed analysis of the trade in Bananas – towards sustainable production by Anne-Claire Chambron and Alistair Smith, as well as a regular Bulletin which is an invaluable source of information on the latest developments around the world.
38-40 Exchange Street, Norwich, Norfolk NR2 1AX.
Tel: +44 1603 765670. Fax: +44 1603 761645.
E-mail: email@example.com Website: www.bananalink.org.uk
Suite 204, 16 Baldwins Gardens,
London EC1N 7RJ. Tel: +44 207 405 5942. Fax: +44 207 405 5943.
The Fair Fruit initiative has been launched, under the umbrella of the Vancouver Food Policy Organization, to raise awareness. Focusing initially on bananas, the group is planning to import and market fair-trade fruit to British Columbia, then expand to other parts of Canada, carrying the Transfair label provided by Fair TradeMark Canada. The International Development Research Centre has also attempted to import a variety of banana, the Mona Lisa, which is more resistant to the fungus Black Sigatoga, and is grown organically in Costa Rica.
Fair TradeMark Canada,
323 Chapel St, 2nd Floor, Ottawa,Canada K1N 7Z2.
Tel: +1 613 563 3351 (Toll-free +1-888-663-FAIR).
Fax: +1 613 237 5969.
Fair-trade bananas are already available in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium and Sweden. Launches are planned in Austria, Luxembourg and Finland. The European Fair Trade Association (EFTA) produces the Fair Trade Yearbook covering bananas, cocoa, coffee, rice and others. The European Banana Action Network (Euroban) is a coalition of organizations in 13 European countries and can be contacted via Banana Link (see Britain above) or:
Kaiser Friederich Strasse 13, 53113 Bonn, Germany.
Tel: +49 228 949 2322.
Fax: +49 228 242 1713.
European Fair Trade Association (EFTA),
Witmakersstraat 10, 6211 JB Maastricht,
The best initial contact for the labour movement is:
COLSIBA (Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Sindicatos Bananeros),
Apartado Postal 4128 SPS, La Lima, Departamento de Cortes, Honduras, Central America.
The TransFair Foundation has plans to launch fair-trade bananas shortly. Organic bananas are imported primarily from the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Honduras.
US-LEAP (Labour Education in the Americas Project),
Stephen Coats, PO Box 268-290, Chicago, IL 60626.
Tel: +1 773 262 6502.
For all campaign contacts:
PO Box 817, Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Eastern Caribbean.
Tel: +1 784 456 2704.
Also worth reading on bananas...
An excellent recent publication is Hungry for Power from the UK Food Group (PO Box 100, London SE1 7RT, +44 171 523 2369, http://www.ukfg.org.uk ) which contains an authoritative chapter on bananas and equally informative analyses on baby food and transnationals such as the food giant Cargill, Monsanto, Zeneca (pesticides) and British American Tobacco. Puts the Big Three banana companies in the context of ‘agribusiness’. Equally intriguing is The Political Ecology of Bananas – contract farming, peasants, and agrarian change in the Eastern Caribbean by Lawrence S Grossman (The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London, 1998), which is particularly strong on the lives of banana growers in St Vincent, the background to the Banana War and the way the environment interacts with agricultural practices. It’s still worth trying to find Bitter Fruit – the untold story of the American coup in Guatemala by Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer (Sinclair Brown, London, 1982), a meticulous, spellbinding account of United Fruit and the politics of the business.
This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7