Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Come on Vince, fair's fair for banana growers.
The Fairtrade Foundation, of which I am an enthusiastic supporter, has pointed out that, whilst the prices of most foodstuffs have risen by nearly 80% in the past ten years, the price of bananas has halved. The reason is that supermarkets are selling bananas as a "loss leader" which is putting the squeeze on banana growers "making it impossible [for them] to build up resilient businesses and trade out of poverty."
The Foundation has asked the Business, Innovation and Skills Department, headed by our own Vince Cable, to refer the matter to the Competition and Markets Authority. Ah, says the Department, "It is not our policy to get involved in price-setting. The price that people pay at the checkout is down to the supermarkets."
Things were different, of course, when our own farmers were involved, and a concerted campaign forced the supermarkets to stop selling milk as a loss-leader and compelled them to pay our dairy farmers at least the cost of production.
Yes, I know that British dairy farmers are living on the edge, I'm an avid fan of The Archers, but Liberal concerns for human dignity have never stopped at the shores of these country, and Caribbean and other banana growers probably have an even more vivid idea of what that edge feels like.
So "Action this day" from this Liberal Democrat lead department, could be of great benefit to some of the poorest people in the world. They're probably "hard-working families" as well, so our Conservative colleagues would approve.
Post Script (added 3rd March)
An article in last Saturday's Guardian by Patrick Collinson spells out how useful the Fairtrade system is to banana growers. It also points out that Starbucks supports Fairtrade coffee plantations, a redeeming feature and some compensation for their not paying their fair share of taxes.