Madrid, October 6th – Gathered at a conference held during the international flagship fruit industry event Fruit Attraction in Madrid, prominent political and economic stakeholders including Latin American Ambassadors, representatives of the banana industry, European retailers, and a member of the European Commission’s Agriculture Cabinet reiterated their commitment to work together in further embedding the critical concept of shared responsibility in the global banana value chain.
As Andreas Schneider, member of the cabinet of the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development highlighted: “Achieving high-quality, nutritious food to sustain food security is at the heart of the European’s Farm to Fork strategy. However, the sustainability of our food systems cannot be achieved by the European Union alone.
The European Union has every interest to work ever closer with Latin American countries on the Farm to Fork actions and foster a strong dialogue between all stakeholders.
Together, we can achieve great rewards in areas like research and innovation”. Under the umbrella of the World Banana Forum (an FAO-affiliated platform), the stakeholders agreed that further collaboration with all stakeholders was now much needed to achieve tangible results and improve the sustainability of the industry.
José Antonio Hidalgo, Coordinator of the Ecuadorian Banana Cluster and Executive Director of AEBE, commenting on the relationships with European retailers, said: “We have seen prominent European retailers make promising declarations following the introduction of the concept of shared responsibility earlier this year.
However, we believe it is time for the European retailer industry to act on it and translate these commitments into concrete steps so we can all progress further towards greater sustainability, not only for our producers, and for the local communities that depend on the banana sector, but also our European consumers”.
The enforcement of a “fair price” was addressed as an efficient way to sustain greater innovation and meet minimum living standards in the plantations although this is yet to be executed by European retailers.
Marike de Peña, former Vice Chair of the Fairtrade International Board, further commented: “Proven methodologies, such as the Fair-Trade methodology, already help enforce the fair price threshold.
The banana sector is strongly committed to tackling environmental, social, and economic challenges.
But what we need, from the other side of the table, is a strong sign of commitment that there will be an agreement – and the enforcement – for a strong fair price policy across the board”.
This LATAM TaskForce conference follows the publication of a joint declaration on shared responsibility earlier this year, calling all stakeholders for further cooperation and the respect of fair price methodologies to meet the new sustainability standards introduced by the European Commission.
Additional comments from the panelists
• From Victor Prada, Secretary of the World Banana Forum, about the consequences the non- respect of the fair price requirement would have on the banana sector:
“The sustainable challenge cannot be solely shouldered by local banana producers and exporters.
The European retail industry has many tools at its disposal to make sustainability possible – through certification schemes for instance and fair banana purchasing conditions. It is everyone’s responsibility to abide by the new corporate responsibility guidelines to make the banana industry a more sustainable and ethical sector”.
From senior representatives of the LATAM TaskForce, a consortium of banana producers and exporters of Latin America.
• From Julio Merida, Executive director of APIB (Guatemala)
“Shared responsibility must become the cornerstone of a sustainable and viable banana value chain in the 21st century and beyond. Ever-increasing demands and regulations have placed all the burdens squarely on the shoulders of producers and put a stranglehold on innovation and growth. As we stand at crossroads, we need to seize the opportunity to reconcile the necessary compromise to dignify the work of millions of women and men around Latin America and make the banana sector a growing and
• From Mr Emerson Aguirre, Executive President of Augura (Colombia)
“Today is a very important day for us because we are all – workers, producers, trade unions, professional associations – gathered here to fight for a fair price for our products. We want to take responsibility to comply with the EU’s ‘farm to fork” strategy, but this opens up a new set of economic and environmental challenges – at the same time, we are faced with rising costs due to the Ukrainian conflict. We need to find a compromise with the EU to achieve the new sustainability standards.
The fair price must cater for all these challenges”.
• Mr. Hilario Pelligrini, President of Adobanano (Dominican Republic)
“The situation in the Dominican Republic is that we are an “organic niche” in a conventional world.
Therefore, we see our responsibility as trying to make a difference in providing better products, yet we are dealing with increased pressure from the retail industry.
The market needs to take into consideration the realities of small-scale banana production, otherwise, an entire part of our economies will collapse. Rather than focusing on the responsibilities of the producers, we should look into the responsibility of the market.”
• Mr Richard Salazar, Executive Director of Acorbanec (Ecuador)
“ We have witnessed a constant devaluation of our fruits over the last year.
The world has therefore changed since
COVID, but our sector never stopped. We have continued to feed the world despite the inflation, rising costs and increasing challenging production and shipping conditions.
Now, in 2022, as we are facing the consequences of the Ukrainian conflict, the sustainability of our industry is in danger.
We acknowledge that we need to work together with the European Union, who sets the rules, to achieve sustainable standards but this cannot succeed if we are not paid a fair price for our products”.
• Mr Jose Francisco Zuñiga, President of Asbama (Colombia)
“For five years in a row, the price of bananas has not increased.
Over the past three years, we had to deal with the arrival of the fusarium in our plantations, followed by the pandemic, and now the Ukrainian war.
We are a resilient sector, ready to take up any challenges but we cannot go on if we don’t receive recognition for our work at a fair price.
The fair price must be guaranteed because it determines everything. There cannot be a green policy in our farmers are in the red”.
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