Friday, 11 April 2014

Foncho says don't give up

Foncho recently visited Southend-on-Sea and he implores us to not give up.

We’ve got some good news, some bad news and importantly a huge thank you. We’re now at 50,000 petition signatures and our campaign has the support of 45 cross-party MPs. Thank you for the actions you have taken to increase awareness of the plight of banana farmers and workers.

We all know that the brutal and futile retail battles are unsustainable for everyone: consumers at home and farmers and workers in developing countries. If our retailers can’t or won’t act it is up to the government to take action. We are deeply disappointed that Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, is trying to pass the buck. In his response to our campaign, he says he supports Fairtrade’s work and believes that businesses must take a long-term view in the interests of suppliers and consumers. However, he believes the market is working for consumers who get cheap bananas and makes no suggestions as to how UK regulators will uphold the rights of banana farmers.

Why is the government putting the rights of consumers to cheap food above the rights of banana producers to earn a fair price for their produce? This simply isn’t good enough when 75% of banana workers in Ecuador currently do not earn a living wage, and many of them live below the poverty line.

On top of that, our survey says that UK consumers don’t want these price wars carried out ‘in their name.’ A massive 84% of consumers across the UK are willing to pay more for their bananas if the extra benefits farmers and workers’ lives, and 60% of consumers believe the government should step in to ensure supermarkets sell bananas at a price so producers can earn a decent living.

We need to pile the pressure on Vince Cable as much as we can ahead of World Fair Trade Day on May 10th to make our voices heard loud and clear.

What can you do to help?

If you have ONE minute: please sign and share our petition to make bananas fair and encourage your friends and family to do the same.

If you have FIVE minutes: contact your MP by letter asking him or her to write to Vince Cable calling on him to protect banana farmers and workers like Foncho. Download the template letter here, fill in the highlighted gaps and pop it in the post to your local MP. (We know that signed letters posted to MPs from constituents are more likely to get a reply than emails)

Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do - together we will make bananas fair.

Jonathan Smith & Kevin McCullough
Heads of Campaigns, Fairtrade Foundation

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Meeting Foncho with Southend High School For Boys

SHSB Meet Foncho
SHSB and others meet Fonchco
Photo: Echo Newspapers

Tired, but enthused by the response he was getting, Foncho, a banana farmer from Cienaga Colombia, greeted a hall packed full of 11 -17 year old schoolboys with these words,
“Thank you for allowing me to be with you, to visit a school so committed to Fairtrade. It makes me very proud to be a Fairtrade Farmer. If it was not for people like you we would not have the opportunities we have in my community today.”
The school in question, Southend High School for Boys, has been a Fairtrade school for many years. The pupil’s Fairtrade committee decided it would be great to see if they could get a partner to speak at an assembly in Fairtrade Fortnight and were lucky enough to find they were part of Foncho’s speaking tour. He has already been to speak to people in the UK Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Wells Cathedral. In Southampton, he visited the dock where the banana boats berth. Scotland was beckoning following this event.

The Fairtrade committee had also arranged a Fairtrade Bake off and a chocolate sale during the week. Fairtrade is discussed and explored through Ethics and Politics lessons as well as being part of the Religious Education syllabus. During a pre assembly informal gathering, Foncho spoke to many of the boys and was very impressed with their level of understanding. He explained how he would have loved to have received the education they are getting and told them to look after their school and teachers as children in Columbia do not have these opportunities. As well as farming bananas, Foncho sits on an education committee set up by his local cooperative to work with children. Fairtrade has changed his way of thinking. He is more aware of his environmental and educational responsibilities and the needs of his community.

This is Foncho’s first visit to the United Kingdom. He said the country was beautiful but it was the people whom he has met that made it more beautiful. He is the face of this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight new campaign Make Bananas Fair. This campaign is asking the UK public to help end the supermarket price wars, including a petition asking the government to urgently step in and investigate the impact of retailer pricing practices. When asked what they could do, Foncho told the school,
“Please buy Fairtrade bananas and support the campaign by signing the petition. Ask supermarkets to do something about the prices they give the banana growers and explain why it is not fair they get so little. Fairtrade makes a big difference to the farmers and their families.”
You can learn more about Foncho in the video produced by the Fairtrade Foundation at

Article by Linda Mead