Brexit uncertainty could spell trouble for Fairtrade banana farmers
01 March 2019
For many people, bananas will be one of the most visible ways to buy Fairtrade when they visit their local supermarket. Some shops, like Sainsbury’s and the Co-op only sell Fairtrade bananas, and most people will have bought one at some point and helped farmers at the sharp end of the supply chain earn a decent wage.
Unfortunately though, like everything these days, Brexit is casting a shadow over the banana sector as we heard this week from the Cameroon Ambassador Daniel Evina Abe'e. Many Fairtrade bananas sold in the UK come from Africa or the Caribbean (part of the ‘African Caribbean and Pacific - ACP - group of countries). About a third of the entire banana production of the ACP goes to the UK, with as much as 80% of the production in some Caribbean islands such as the Windwards being sold on the UK market as a result of old colonial ties. The banana sector is vitally important to the economies of these African and Caribbean countries, supporting more than 80,000 direct and indirect jobs and funding entire communities.
As a Member of the EU, Britain has helped to support the banana producers of the ACP countries by pushing for trade deals that protect them from the large US-owned Latin American banana producers that are their main rivals, all the while promoting reforms that help the countries increase their competitiveness and diversify their economies.
The uncertainty around Brexit could be massively damaging to banana producers, particularly the Caribbean producers who will bear the brunt of the impact. Farmers in these countries don’t know whether the UK is willing or able to continue supporting their banana industry by rolling over trade deals after Brexit. Increasing tariffs or other costs of exporting to Britain could spell ruin for many of these small farmers and like everyone else watching on with Brexit, they don't know whether the outcome will be something they can work with or an absolute disaster.
The example of the Fairtrade banana farmers reminds us that Brexit, and the government’s mishandling of it, is not just impacting the UK, it’s putting the livelihoods of people all over the word at risk.