Banana Spotlight: Equal Exchange Bananas

Parker Townley November 26, 2012
Go Bananas for Fair Trade is a campaign created by Fair Trade Towns USA with the aim of building awareness and demand for Fair Trade bananas all across the country.  We kicked the campaign off in October (Fair Trade Month) with over 30 campaigns hosting banana-themed events. We’re thrilled with this success and will continue to bring you resources and support for Fair Trade bananas through our website. Check out this feature on Equal Exchange bananas!
By Guest Blogger:   Jessica Jones-Hughes

Equal Exchange, a worker owned-cooperative, began 25 years ago with a vision to change the food system. The three founders saw a backwards food system where corporations were in control and farmer’s voices were lacking. Out of their collective effort,  Equal Exchange fair trade coffee entered the US marketplace. Twenty-five years later, thanks to many actors, fair trade is now a sought after certification in coffee, chocolate, and tea, but is less familiar in the world of bananas.

Equal Exchange stepped into the world of small farmer bananas 6 years ago. Since the first container arrived it has

Photo courtesy of Equal Exchange Bananas. Weavers Way: Jessica, Nicole (EE Bananas) with Jean and Mike (Weaver’s Way) at Weaver’s Way Coop in Philadelphia, PA

not been an easy road, to say the least. Bananas are a difficult commodity when compared to coffee. Bananas are perishable, meaning they have a shelf life of a week instead of a year; they travel on limited shipping routes and they are subject to any issue that arises along the route from poor weather to port strikes to government exams. Most consumers have no idea all that must happen in order to have a perfect yellow banana on the shelf! The true cost of bananas is not reflected in the $0.99 cent/lb price.

Equal Exchange partners with three bold small farmer cooperatives in Peru and Ecuador: CEPIBO, APOQ and el Guabo. Each small farmer co-op has a unique story, but they are all bound by their independence. For example, in 2008, CEPIBO and APOQ started exporting directly to alternative traders like Equal Exchange, in the US and Europe. Small farmer co-op members own their own farms; together they own the packing stations, have access to joint resources and democratically make decisions about how they want the cooperative to run.  Co-ops also create a second tier of administrative and exporting jobs in rural areas, where employment options are limited.

You can find Equal Exchange bananas (organic and fair trade!) in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Upper Mid-West. Most of our store partners are food co-ops, natural food stores and independent markets. In the Northeast, we also have a strong program with Stop and Shop. Click here to locate Equal Exchange bananas near you.

Photo courtesy of Equal Exchange Bananas. Juan Carlos, agriculture expert, of CEPIBO cooperative explaining how bananas grow

What happens if you do not see Equal Exchange bananas at your local market? ASK.Stores listen to consumers because you are the ones deciding where you want to shop and what you want to buy. Bananas are a very important item to the supermarket, which means it might take more effort to make changes. Look for Equal Exchange bananas at your local market, if you do not see any, let the produce manager know that you want them to carry Equal Exchange bananas and tell them why you care. Ask repeatedly because change happens with repeated requests. In Mankato, MN a beautiful story of success shows how collective voices can succeed. The Mankato citizens asked over and over and their local Cub store now carries Equal Exchange bananas.

Just like the farmers Equal Exchange works with who now have a collective voice in their banana business, you as the consumer can have a voice in what you purchase. This

is the only way change in the challenging banana market will happen, by working together toward a collective goal. You can learn more by visiting our website including two incredible videos.

The Go Bananas Campaign is a step towards increasing the awareness and need for fair trade bananas in the USA. The next step is in your hands! Small Farmers, Big Change!

Thank you for supporting small scale farmers locally and globally. All bananas are not created Equal.

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Parker Townley, National Organizer | Fair Trade Colleges & Universities

Parker Townley works for Fair Trade Colleges and Universities to help connect students and faculty with the resources they need to effectively campaign for Fair Trade on campus. In his free time Parker explores the Sierra Nevadas with his trusty backpack, roams the Bay Area in search of the perfect cup of coffee, and cultivates a small veggie garden.