Kiwis eat more than 90,000 tonnes of banana per year, more than 10 tonnes an hour! But only 1 in 14 of New Zealand’s bananas are Fairtrade. Two years after our report on the value distribution in European banana chains, we investigated the little-documented overseas market of New Zealand.

Bananas are a major staple as well as an important cash crop in developing countries, providing farmers with a regular income throughout the year. About 15-20% of global banana production is exported, mainly from Latin America and the Philippines, with the rest consumed locally (for example in India and Brazil).

Bananas are also the most eaten fruit in Europe, Northern America, Australia and New Zealand, the latter having one of the highest per capita consumption (amounting to 20 kg per person and per year).

Between producers and consumers, the banana chain looks like an hourglass: a large number of farmers and workers at the base sell to a few international traders and supermarkets in the middle, who in turn sell to a very large number of consumers at the top. Over the past decade, the growing market power of retailers and competition between large fruit companies to remain their ‘preferred suppliers’ has led banana chains to be increasingly driven by supermarkets.

This market concentration creates a strong downward pressure on small banana farmers and workers, and leads to large-scale negative impacts: unsustainable living and working conditions, public health problems and environmental pollution linked to the industrialization of production.

However, the sourcing of bananas by retailers in New Zealand remains largely unsustainable; there is little commitment to Fairtrade when compared to many European countries and little evidence that retailers’ sourcing policies address the issues in banana supply chains. They could do a lot more to address the negative impacts of their sale of conventional bananas.

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