Bananas are the most important traded fruit in the world, worth nearly USD 15 billion in 2017. Demand for bananas is projected to grow as more people become aware of their nutritional benefits.
However, the sector is facing a race against time due to the need for resistant varieties to combat crop diseases and other sustainable production challenges, including climate change impacts and excessive pesticide use. The fight for living wages for banana farmers and workers—combined with addressing labour rights infractions—also threatens the sector, as farm gate prices have remained unchanged over the past decades.
Voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs) are becoming increasingly important, since they work to address some of the sustainability issues faced by the sector. VSSs can potentially lower and internalize societal costs by providing banana workers and smallholder producers with fair incomes and social security. VSSs can also help prevent natural habitat losses and water depletion while contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Developing the demand for VSS-compliant bananas in producing countries can be a substantial source of growth, but it must account for the livelihood and food security role bananas play for these communities. It is critical that VSSs become more accessible for smallholder banana producers to enable both sustainable production and consumption in producing countries.
We will explore these issues further in our banana report, to be launched in the second half of 2019.