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What You Can Do


new internationalist
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:
Member governments should add to existing agreements:
•    A social clause to ensure the observance of International Labour Organization minimum labour standards.
•    An environmental clause to ensure ecologically sound production practices.

The private sector:
Companies producing or trading in bananas should support and develop:
•    Freedom of association for trade unions, and collective agreements.
•    Corporate Codes of Conduct which are subject to independent verification.

Fair trade:
•    Labelling based on standards set out by the FairTrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO).
•    Organic production based on social and environmental standards set out by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).

The European Union regime:
A resolution to the current dispute is urgently required and should include:
•    Tariff quotas with individual country quotas.
•    Preferential access for ACP countries to remain, in accordance with Protocol 5 of the Lomé Convention.
•    Revenues arising from the above invested in sustainability.
•    Import licensing to permit market access to all operators – including fair trade – on an equitable basis.
•    Licence auctioning with fee income used to encourage diversification and cost ‘internalization’ by producers and traders.


Buy organic and fair-trade bananas!

Banana stickers. 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.

Action groups
Aotearoa/New Zealand
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.

PO Box 768, Stirling, South Australia 5152.
Tel: +61 8 8370 8455. Fax: +61 8 8370 8381.
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: www.green-pages.com.au/nasaa/index.html

Biological Farmers of Australia,
PO Box 3404, Toowoomba,
QLD 4350. Tel: +61 7 4639 3299. Fax: +61 7 4639 3755.
E-mail: [email protected]

Good Foods Co-op,
91 Musgrave Road, Red Hill, QLD 4059.
Tel: +61 7 3369 0898. Fax: +61 7 3876 2757.
E-mail: [email protected]

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.

Banana Link,
38-40 Exchange Street, Norwich, Norfolk NR2 1AX.
Tel: +44 1603 765670. Fax: +44 1603 761645.
E-mail: [email protected] Website: www.bananalink.org.uk

Fairtrade Foundation,
Suite 204, 16 Baldwins Gardens,
London EC1N 7RJ. Tel: +44 207 405 5942. Fax: +44 207 405 5943.
E-mail: [email protected]


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 Fruit,
c/o 2524 Cypress Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6J 3N2.
Tel: +1 604 736 7678. Fax: +1 604 736 9646.
E-mail: [email protected] 
Website: www.web.net/fairfruit

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.
E-mail: [email protected] 
Website: www.web.net/fairtrade.ftmc/fair3.html


Our bananas make the world go round. Europe
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:

Irish Fair Trade Network,
17 Lower Camden Street, Dublin 2, Ireland.
Tel/Fax: +353 1 475 3515.
E-mail: [email protected] 
Website: www.bananas.agornet.be

FLO International,
Kaiser Friederich Strasse 13, 53113 Bonn, Germany.
Tel: +49 228 949 2322.
Fax: +49 228 242 1713.
E-Mail: [email protected]

European Fair Trade Association (EFTA),
Witmakersstraat 10, 6211 JB Maastricht,
The Netherlands.
E-mail: [email protected]


100 years is enough! Latin America
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.


United States
The TransFair Foundation has plans to launch fair-trade bananas shortly. Organic bananas are imported primarily from the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Honduras.

TransFair USA,
52 Ninth Street, Oakland, CA 94607.
Tel: +1 510 663 5260.
Fax: +1 510 663 5264.
E-mail: [email protected]  
Website: www.transfair.org

US-LEAP (Labour Education in the Americas Project),
Stephen Coats, PO Box 268-290, Chicago, IL 60626.
Tel: +1 773 262 6502.


Windward Islands
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.

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New Internationalist issue 317 magazine cover This article is from the October 1999 issue of New Internationalist.
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