Fairtrade Fortnight: it started with a bang(ana)

salf FT fortnight

Salford students: mixed feelings about the fairness of banana trade

Fairtrade Fortnight was marked by events all over Manchester. Unfair football matches were rigged for players to experience the un-level playing field, Ghanaian cocoa growers met audiences around the city and Manchester Art Gallery hosted a banana grower from Colombia. Indeed the banana took centre stage this year: you may have spotted some dotted around the campus, suspiciously human-sized. The Sustainability team handed out Fairtrade bananas around the university and snapped students, staff and visitors sporting ‘banana smiles’.

Bananas are the fourth most important agricultural crop after wheat, rice and maize, constituting the staple food of 400 million people. The average UK resident purchases 100 bananas a year, a trade worth £700 million at shop tills. So why should we look for the Fairtrade logo when buying bananas?

The price per kilo of bananas has dropped by 40% since 2002, resulting in part from supermarket price wars (FT Foundation report). When banana farmers typically receive just 5-10% of the till cost of a banana, our 11p price-tag means that small-scale farmers are increasingly trapped in a cycle of poverty and (those who can) abandoning their farms. The same applies to other commodity crops suited to small-scale farming such as coffee and cocoa (listen again to Evan Davies’ fascinating discussion with chocolate producers). Rising living costs and inflation combine with unrelenting pressure on farmers to compete to meet supermarkets’ demands for ever-cheaper foods, leaving many people unable to feed and educate their families. Long-term environmental damage also results from increased water and agrochemicals used in attempt to raise yields. You can read the story of banana grower Foncho here.

Did you know that the University of Salford has held Fairtrade status since 2011? The Fairtrade Foundation stipulates that five criteria be met for the status to be upheld:

  • A Fairtrade policy in place
  • Fairtrade products in campus shops (including cotton for staff uniforms)
  • Fairtrade products provided at all events and meetings hosted by the university
  • Fairtrade campaigns around campus
  • A Fairtrade steering group

All of these require enthusiastic individuals willing to carry on the momentum and push for Fairtrade and other sustainability criteria to be considered by those procuring food and other products. If you are interested in sitting on our Fairtrade steering group and devising ways to expand the Fairtrade offer, please email Bec Bennett (r.a.bennett@salford.ac.uk). Green Impact teams must also include considerations of Fairtrade in pursuing their awards- for example, the Silver award procurement criteria encourages teams to purchase Fairtrade products for consumption through brew clubs and private consumption as well as departmental purchasing. These can be ordered through Aramark as per current food sourcing arrangements.

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