Fair Trade Towns USA brings Colombian Banana Producers to Gustavus

Posted on November 2nd, 2012 by

On Friday, October 19th, Kitchen Cabinet hosted Felipe and Jorge, representatives from the Bananeras de Uraba S.A. and Corporacion Rosalba Zapata Cordona of Colombia, as well as Fair Trade Towns USA representative Courtney Lang to give a presentation on the benefits of fair trade.

The presentation began with Courtney delivering information on the Fair Trade Towns USA organization as well as the Fair Trade Colleges/Universities USA certification. Mankato became the 25th fair trade town to become certified in the state (now there are 30) after passing a series of requirements illustrating their dedication to the cause. Advocates of fair trade in the area needed to be able to demonstrate work they had done with the city’s governing body, fair trade events they had planned, and evidence of efforts to engage the public. Currently there are 60 Fair Trade Colleges/Universities in the country, and we discussed the possibility of efforts in the future to earn Gustavus that certification.

Felipe and Jorge’s demonstration began with a question posed to us: what is sustainability? They articulated three important elements that give sustainability dimension: social responsibility, economic sustainability, and environmental impact. This breakdown of the term led to the discussion of the human aspect involved in economics and the environment and the heavy responsibility we have when making consumer choices.

The representatives of the banana growing company explained its structure and the benefits given to employees. They are a part of Fair Trade International, which contains 24 divisions, and their company, Bananeras de Uraba S.A., is partnered with the Corporacion Rosalba Zapata Cordona that manages their community development premium they receive as part of the fair trade agreement. Fair trade is important to them because it sets a minimum price that does not fluctuate with the market, so they are guaranteed an income. At their company, they provide no “term” contracts; each employee has guaranteed employment unless there is a legitimate cause for their dismissal. They don’t use pesticides or GMO, yet they are not certified organic because they do use fertilizers. Benefits that the community development premium provides for their workers includes money to create housing, purchase technology, perform community service, and provide education and vacation opportunities for employees.

Being able to provide fair trade bananas is very important to them because bananas are 50% of fruit imports in the United States. Unfortunately, however, logistically and cost-wise they are the most expensive to produce, yet the cheapest to purchase. At the end of their presentation they urged us to become vocal supporters of fair trade at our supermarkets and talk with management about where their products are purchased and if they would be open to changing their provider. Options suggested included community petitions and church support as champions of social responsibility.

More information about their company can be found at www.crzc.com.co


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