Sandra is a member of her local Dennery Fairtrade group, part of the Windward Islands Farmers Association (WINFA) which also includes banana farmers from St Vincent & the Grenadines, Dominica and Grenada. WINFA was Fairtrade certified in 2000 and has a membership of around 3,500 banana farmers.
More than 85 per cent of bananas grown in the Windward Islands are Fairtrade certified and it is access to the UK Fairtrade market that has enabled the banana industry to survive in the increasingly hostile global commercial environment.
Fairtrade Standards ensure farmers receive a price per box of bananas that covers their costs of production. In addition WINFA receives the Fairtrade Premium of $1.00 per box to fund community improvements and business development, including diversification into other agricultural products and income generation schemes.
Liberalisation of the global banana trade has put the Windwards banana industry under increasing competition from lower-cost bananas grown on vast plantations in Latin American and West Africa. These bananas are on the frontline of a 10-year supermarket price war in the UK which has resulted in loose bananas today selling for almost 50 per cent less than in 2002, devaluing them in the eyes of shoppers. This continuous downward pressure on prices makes it hard to see how anyone could be making a profit, or where investment in a more sustainable and fair banana industry for the future can come from.
Low retail prices mean farmers like Sandra struggle to cover the costs of running small family farms that use more socially and environmentally friendly methods with fewer agrichemicals but have higher overall costs because of the hilly terrain, lower yields and higher transport, quality control, and labour costs.
For plantation workers, low retail prices mean long hours, low wages, trade union repression, poor health and safety standards and intensive use of agrichemicals which are harmful to both workers and the environment.