Bananas must be up there with tea, coffee and chocolate in the list of things most associated with Fairtrade. So much so that in 2009 they were the main focus for the whole Fairtrade Fortnight campaign with the tagline "Go Bananas for Fairtrade!"
I bought my Fairtrade bananas from Riverford this week. They're grown by a co-operative of small scale farmers in Banelino, Dominican Republic who share equipment and growing knowledge so that they can compete with the large private plantations. For each 18kg box of bananas an extra $1 goes directly back into the local area and is used create schools and health facilities as well as improving the co-operatives farms. In Banelino, this money is also used to run one of only two schools for children with special needs in the country.
The Riverford website tells the yellow fruit's story from shoot to shops:
A new banana farm is established with the planting of small shoots that look a bit like a leek, from which the banana ‘tree’ grows (the trunk is actually made from adapted leaves). After six months, the plant produces a huge, extraordinary-looking flower. The fruits emerge up what then becomes the banana stem, and 10-12 weeks later, they are ready for harvesting. Once cut, the stems are loaded onto hooks and hand-pulled to shared washing and packing stations. Peculiar trains of lime-green fruit shunt and clack through the humid groves through much of the day; certainly different from pulling leeks in drizzly Devon!
After being packed into boxes on the farms, the bananas travel north to the port at Monte Cristi. After a nine day voyage to Portsmouth they are taken to the Fyffes ripening rooms in Basingstoke, before reaching us at the Riverford farms.