An investigation into the promotion and use of pesticides in the banana industry produced by ‘People and Power’.
Reefer Trends reports on the crisis in the Colombian industry,
‘In the last few weeks the crisis has started to bite and producers have had to choose between paying workers their full wages and benefits or applying inputs.’
This is the stark assessment made by NGO Banana Link in describing the situation of the banana industry in Colombia. Despite being at the top end of the scale in terms of compliance with core ethical standards such as freedom of association, living wages, stable employment contracts and decent working conditions and despite enjoying the best industrial relations in the Latin America banana sector the industry in crisis. This is because producers sell their fruit in US dollars and pay nearly all their costs in Colombian pesos. The report says that an ‘uncompensated 6.5% rise in the peso’s value against the dollar over the last 12 months, coupled with serious climatic disruption at the end of 2011 and into 2012, has meant increased costs to all producers.’ This has created a highly volatile situation in one of the world’s most violent regions.
In this interview, Noè Ramírez of banana workers’ union SITRABI speaks about the violation of labour rights in Guatemala and the murder of trade union activists. Noè’s brother, Marco Tulio Ramírez, also a SITRABI union leader, was murdered in October 2007. He describes efforts to improve workers’ rights and condition at plantations on the south coast of Guatemala, where they are hoping to replicate SITRABI’s successes in Izabal.
In spite of the country’s tragic record of murders and threats to trade unionists, Colombia is the country where trade union rights in the banana industry have been most respected for the last 15 years. However the national collective bargaining agreement that covers the wages, conditions and social benefits of some 20,000 plantation and packhouse workers and their famlilies on over 300 farms has been put under undue pressure as the union Sintranagro told press this week.
Everything you wanted to ask about bananas; see also their forum.
Because of their impressive potassium content, bananas are highly recommended by doctors for patients whose potassium is low. One large banana, about 9 inches in length, packs 602 mg of potassium and only carries 140 calories. That same large banana even has 2 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. No wonder the banana was considered an important food to boost the health of malnourished children! Those reducing sodium in their diets can’t go wrong with a banana with its mere 2 mgs of sodium. For the carbohydrate counters there are 36 grams of carbs in a large banana.
Vitamins and minerals are abundant in the banana, offering 123 I.U. of vitamin A for the large size. A full range of B vitamins are present with .07 mg of Thiamine, .15 mg of Riboflavin, .82 mg Niacin, .88 mg vitamin B6, and 29 mcg of Folic Acid. There are even 13.8 mg of vitamin C. On the mineral scale Calcium counts in at 9.2 mg, Magnesium 44.1 mg, with trace amounts of iron and zinc.
Putting all of the nutritional figures together clearly shows the banana is among the healthiest of fruits. The plantain, when cooked, rates slightly higher on the nutritional scale in vitamins and minerals but similar to the banana in protein and fiber content.
Bananas are the main fruit in international trade and the most popular one in the world. In terms of volume they are the first exported fruit, while they rank second after citrus fruit in terms of value. Banana is a very delicate commodity on economic, social, environmental and political grounds. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Statistics estimations, world total exports of banana accounted for 16,8 million tonnes in 2006. Bananas are also a very important staple commodity for many developing countries, together with wheat, rice or corn, hence the relevance of bananas for food security. Some of the main banana producing countries, such as India or Brazil, are hardly involved in international trade. In fact, only about one fifth of total banana production is internationally traded . Nevertheless, the share of banana trade in world banana production increased slightly in the last decades (from around 18% in the sixties and seventies to over 22% in the 1990s and 2000s). The international banana market shows a highly regional character.
Under the new rules, the limit for general foodstuffs such as fruit, vegetables, rice, seafood and meat is 100 becquerels of radiation per kilogram, down from 500 prior to April 1. The limit for milk, baby food and infant formula is 50 becquerels per kilogram. For drinking water and tea leaves, it is 10 becquerels per kilogram.
The ministry said local municipalities will be responsible for carrying out testing and that any item measuring above the set standard will not be permitted to be sold.
The problem is that bananas are naturally radioactive. One banana has perhaps 15 Bq, there are usually more than 6 or 7 bananas to a kilo of them and thus a kilo of bananas has more than 100 Bq. And as for Brazil nuts, these are actually so radioactive that if you take them into a nuclear installation you cannot take them out again. They’re too radioactive, go over the limits for what a nuclear installation is allowed to release into the environment. It is possible that this nuts story is apocryphal of course but I wouldn’t bet against it being true.
Can fair trade, ethical business practices, and environmentally aware businesses succeed in a market where lowest common denominator gets the prize?