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How Ecuadorian companies, government are helping family farms

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Amy Sancetta/AP/File

(Read caption) Chiquita bananas are on display at a grocery store in Bainbridge, Ohio. Ecuador's businesses and government are leading an effort toward treating family and smallholder farmers fairly, especially in the banana sector.

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All Good Fairtrade, a banana company in southwestern Ecuador, sources its bananas from 430 family farms in the El Guabo Cooperative. The collective boasts a product that is good for growers, land, and you. Family farmers are given a fair and stable price for their product. Fairtrade uses organic fertilizer, and the cooperative prohibits the use of 120 agrochemicals that are typically used in fruit production.

Ecuador supplies 38 percent of the total volume of bananas traded in the world, and the banana sector makes up nearly 61 percent of the country’s agricultural GDP. While Dole Ubesa, Dole’s Ecuadorian subsidiary, supplies one out of every eight exported bananas, the conglomerate banana exporters are less active in Ecuador than in some of the country’s neighbors. Del Monte has found cheaper production options in Costa Rica, while Dole has taken over sales operations in Mozambique. In fact, despite being the world’s main supplier of bananas, Ecuadorian farmers produce 1,700 boxes/hectare/year compared to Guatemalan and Philippine farmers, who produce 3,000 boxes/hectare/year.

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This dip in yield is a result of the Ecuador’s progressive treatment of those involved in the banana trade. Political support for smallholder Ecuadorian farmers creates an environment where organic, fair trade, and humane producers like All Good Fairtrade are more likely to succeed. Ecuador’s Banana Act mandates “the minimum support price must cover the average cost plus a reasonable profit.” Companies like All Good are able to provide quality throughout the production process—and offer workers more than the US $3/day average pay for banana farmworkers. 

Ethisphere Institute, a New York-based research center promoting better business practice, has named All Good to their annual World’s Most Ethical Companies list.

The United Nations declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) to highlight the importance of family and smallholder farmers. Food Tank is partnering with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to commemorate IYFF, and will feature weekly posts and other media highlighting the innovations that family farmers are using to alleviate hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation, along with the campaigns and policies that support them.


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