Sandra Joseph – WINFA, St Lucia

About This Producer

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.

How Farmers Have Invested the Fairtrade Premium

  • Farm improvements to meet GLOBALGAP health and safety standards (required by UK retailers): upgrading packing stations, installing pit toilets and lunch rooms for workers.
  • Agro-tourism: an inter-island income diversification project to refurbish a processing plant to process members’ passion fruit, guava, other fruit into jams, juices and chutneys for sale locally.
  • Health: medical equipment for rural clinics, construction of a medical store, wheelchairs for elderly, annual health checks for workers on members’ farms.
  • Education: pre-school construction and equipment, computers for schools, scholarships for secondary school students, new school bus and bus shelter.
  • Community development: refurbishment of community centres, installing street lighting.
  • Infrastructure: improvement of farm access roads and bridges.
  • Social security: supplementary contributions to farmers’ pension funds.
  • Reduced use of agrichemicals has led to an increase in wildlife (worms, birds, snakes, and crayfish) and allowed animals to be grazed nearby and food crops to be grown.
  • Regular campaigns to remove waste – e.g. the insecticide-impregnated plastic bags used to protect bananas on the trees – have resulted in a cleaner, healthier local environment.
  • Buffer zones between banana plots and rivers/roads have reduced soil erosion, protected fruit from traffic pollution and provided space to plant fruit trees for domestic consumption.