Various types of bananas can be found in the supermarket, with or without a quality mark. But is the cheapest uncertified banana the 'worst buy' in terms of sustainability and fair price for growers? submitted the question to two experts.

Every year we eat 720 million bananas in the Netherlands. It is estimated that about half of them carry a sustainability label, such as an organic label, Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade. In many supermarkets you can also find the well-known uncertified 'brand bananas' and often an even cheaper unbranded variant.

"In the Netherlands, we consume one and the same type of banana: a variety that is easy to transport to the supermarket from Latin America and Africa," says Tara Scally of Max Havelaar, the foundation that determines in the Netherlands which products may bear the Fairtrade logo. . "The type is therefore the same, but there is certainly a difference in the conditions in which a banana is grown. And that is in terms of the environment and human rights."

The different quality marks:

  • Rainforest Alliance: workers receive at least the minimum wage and have good benefits. However, there are no price guarantees.
  • Fairtrade: buyers are obliged to pay a minimum price and also pay an extra premium to the cooperatives. The workers decide democratically where they spend that amount.
  • Organic: Organic products are in principle produced according to the idea of ​​fair trade, but there are no guarantees.

The difference between non-certified bananas and Fairtrade bananas is mainly the minimum price to be paid and a premium going to the workers. Scally: "In addition to their salary, workers receive a $ 1 premium per box and can jointly determine how they spend that money."

The money is often used for school supplies. "In Colombia, for example, education is free, but you do need books and a school uniform. Without a uniform, children still cannot go to school," explains Scally.

Prices are kept low

You can see these differences in the price. However, price alone is not a good indication of how fair and sustainable a banana is, says Fedes van Rijn, researcher in the field of sustainability at Wageningen Economic Research. "Supermarkets keep prices artificially low. In the UK it is even common for bananas to be sold below cost."

Certification is an indication. Van Rijn: "A banana with a Rainforest or Fairtrade logo is generally slightly more expensive, although sometimes it is also stunted with certified bananas."

"There is no real sustainable banana." Fedes van Rijn, researcher at Wageningen Economic Research

In her research, Van Rijn examines whether farmers and workers are better off in a Fairtrade-certified trade chain than farmers and workers who are not in it. That indeed appears to be the case. "Not necessarily because they earn more, but because they have more access to health care, clean water, etc. They are also much more aware of their rights."

Can you therefore say that the cheapest banana is indeed the worst choice? "You can never say that with certainty. The other way round is true: as a consumer, you can assume that a certified banana is a more sustainable choice."

As long as supermarkets keep the price low, you cannot speak of a sustainable banana. "There is no really sustainable banana," says Van Rijn. "At least not how the chain is currently organized."

See also: How fair are fair trade bananas, coffee and chocolate?