Roseau Model Farm Fairtrade Group, St Lucia,
Conrad James has been selling his bananas into the Fairtrade market for over six years. His farm is 5.6 acres in size and most weeks he harvests around a hundred 18kg boxes of bananas. He has three sons, all studying or working overseas, but they help him on the farm when they are at home. He feels that Fairtrade is helping to change peoples’ way of life and is encouraging them to stay in farming rather than get jobs in other industries or leave the island altogether.
Bananas are crucial to the national economies of the Windward Islands. Successive changes to the EU banana regime introduced in 1993 have steadily eroded the protection traditionally given to the islands’ producers, resulting in a dramatic decline in the fortunes of the banana export trade. Compounded by global oversupply and low UK retail prices, the islands’ market share has been eroded by large-scale, lower-cost producers from Latin America and Africa, resulting in falling production, reduced revenues, and an increase in unemployment and related social problems.
For St Lucia, banana production and export is the most important activity in the agricultural sector. But between 1992 and 2004, annual export volumes fell from 135,000 tonnes to 42,000 tonnes and revenues crashed from US$71m to US$31m, while the number of banana farmers fell from 10,000 in the early 1990s to 1,800 in 2005
Fairtrade A Growing Solution
Growing evidence suggests that it is only access to Fairtrade markets that is enabling the Windward Islands industry to survive: latest figures for banana shipments from the islands show that the average proportion of Fairtrade bananas grew from 29% in 2005 to 72% in 2006.
Dr Kenny D Anthony, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, said: ‘In this era of competitive global trade, small-scale farmers like ours have little or no chance of survival without the kind of market intervention that is provided through Fairtrade. Not only does Fairtrade guarantee a fair price to our farmers, but the social premium that is generated through the Fairtrade sales provides invaluable support for projects in rural communities throughout the Windward Islands.’
Fairtrade Premium Use
The St. Lucia National Fairtrade Organisation is formed of 13 Fairtrade groups scattered around the island, including the Roseau Model Farm Group which is located in the west of the island, south of the capital, Castries.
During their monthly Fairtrade meetings, farmers discuss technical issues related to production and market information but, more than anything, they discuss how they should use the Fairtrade premium and decide on their work plan for the year.
The Roseau Model Farm group have used some of their Fairtrade premium to build a new fence around the local school – to keep the children in and others out! They also bought some fans for the local medical centre, which previously had nothing to keep the patients cool in the tropical heat.
Nationally, the premium has been used to provide medical assistance to farmers and their dependents; an autoclave (sterilising equipment) for one of two hospitals on the island at Dennery; and for educational projects such as a computer lab at a primary school and a resource room at a secondary school with updated reading materials and computer equipment.
And a new truck has been purchased to help distribute banana packaging materials. It is also used to deliver farm inputs such as fertilisers which are provided to all Fairtrade groups at minimum cost. Consumers in the UK play an important role in ensuring that farmers like Conrad James can sell their bananas to the Fairtrade market thus securing their livelihood and improving their communities.
Look for the FAIRTRADE Mark on products. It’s your guarantee that disavantaged farmers and workers in the developing world are getting a better deal.