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Walk through banana plants to the shed where Pedro Chamaidan and Graciella Apolo pack their bananas and you’d be forgiven for mistaking their farm for some kind of banana sanctuary. It’s very quiet, extremely green and the sunlight filters through the canopy of banana leaves, glittering on the forest floor.
At the packing shed Pedro and Graciella are giggling, behaving more like teenagers than parents with grown up children.
Before they became Fairtrade farmers they sold their bananas to intermediaries, representing multi-national banana exporters, who would regularly force them to sell their fruit for less than the cost of production.
These intermediaries would commit to buy Pedro & Graciella’s bananas at a set price in accordance with the government-mandated minimum. On the day Pedro & Graciella were harvesting their bananas the intermediary would call and say the price they’d agreed for the harvest had changed to less than the official minimum price. Because they were in the middle of harvesting it was impossible to find another buyer so they were forced to accept the lower price or leave their bananas to rot.
In Pedro & Graciella’s own words “this was heartbreaking”, because they, in turn, were committed to pay the bananeros they work with and cover all the other costs of production. This worked out to be more than they were earning from the price they were forced to pay per box. If it continued they would have had to sack the bananeros. Some of the larger banana corporations use these tactics to drive small farming families off their farms.
If they wanted to stay in business, keep their farm and look after the bananeros they would have to find another way.
That way was Fairtrade. Since joining the El Guabo cooperative they have enjoyed the security of a fair and stable price and a happy future.