Cultivated in Asia and the Pacific for almost 10,000 years, bananas were transported to the Middle East and Africa and came to the Americas with Spanish colonialism. Today, bananas are grown exclusively in tropical and sub-tropical climates, where the majority of bananas are also consumed.
The banana plant is very unique. Interestingly, it is not actually a tree but an herb, the largest in the world. One bunch of bananas grows per “tree”, developing from the large reddish flower from the centre of the stem. Bananas do not have seeds; instead, new plants grow from the underground stems of already existing plants.
In the banana industry, production, profits, and power are highly concentrated. Meanwhile, it’s hard for small banana farmers and workers on banana plantations to earn a living, and they must often work under very difficult conditions.
Since their launch in November 1996 in the Netherlands, international sales of Fair Trade bananas have increased steadily by an average of over 20% per year. Fair Trade Certified bananas have generated a total of at least $10 million for disadvantaged farmers and workers (FLO 2004).
Fair Trade Certified bananas come from 38 producer organizations in 8 different countries: Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Ghana, the Dominican Republic, and the Windward Islands. They were the first type of fruit to arrive in Canada, in 2004.