Fairtrade Canada shows the harm of banana harvesting

The non-profit is writing messages directly on peels to rally consumer support for ethically harvested products.

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Fairtrade Canada is revealing something potentially rotten about the banana business with its new campaign.

The national non-profit that educates the public on the treatment of production and harvest workers, in addition to certifying products that meet its standards, is drawing specific attention to the plight of plantation workers, as well as the environmental costs of un-certified products by writing messages directly on the product with a simple stamp. 

According to the group’s insights, 99% of the bananas sold in Canada do not meet the fair trade designation and most Canadians are unaware of the serious costs of relying on cheaper bananas harvested through “traditional” processes. Those processes, however, include worker harassment and low pay (some workers earn a mere $3 a day), as well as hazardous pesticide use, soil degradation and other environmental dangers.

According to Leia Rogers, CD and managing partner at Rethink, the “Behind the Peel” awareness campaign is a fresh way to approach a serious subject and that people buy the fruit every day without recognizing the potential impact on communities. Campaign elements also include a microsite of the same name, which invites users to take action and contact retailers, as well as to read about the plight of banana plantation workers.

Fairtrade Canada says that certified fair trade bananas are only available for sale at a few grocery banners in Quebec, Ontario and B.C., despite chains in other countries having a strong commitment to selling fair trade products (for example, Sainsbury’s – the second-largest grocery store in the U.K. – has been selling fair trade bananas for a decade). Some global brands have already gotten in on the act as well. Ben & Jerry’s sources fair trade bananas (as well as other ingredients) for its ice cream.

According to Fairtrade Canada’s statistics, bananas are the world’s most exported fresh fruit. In Canada, bananas comprised 9% of the more than $6.5 billion in imported fresh fruit in 2017, making it one of the most consumed fruits across the country.