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WASHINGTON -- Claiming that U.S. grocers lag far behind their European counterparts in making Fair Trade bananas available, nonprofit organization Co-op America here is organizing what it calls "tens of thousands" of U.S. consumers to put pressure on major national and independent grocery store operators to carry the fruit.
"Even though Fair Trade tropical fruits have been available in the U.S. since 2004, they are relatively rare in the U.S.," said Co-op America Fair Trade program coordinator Yochanan Zakai in a statement. "In Europe, where Fair Trade fruit has been available since the mid-1990s, sales of such bananas have been growing at a rate of about 50 percent a year. It's time for U.S. grocers to start making available Fair Trade bananas and other fruit."
Participants in the campaign are asked to sign a Web-based letter to major supermarket chains, requesting more Fair Trade fruit. The campaign also seeks to recruit interested consumers to work with local supermarkets by sending e-mails, making phone calls, and enlisting other local shoppers. Co-op America says that its past consumer action campaigns have led to the mobilization of at least 10,000 consumers to lobby U.S. companies for more responsible/greener actions.
"Through Fair Trade certification, banana farmers earn a living wage that enables them to not only cover production costs, but also send their children to school and provide medical care to themselves and their families," the Co-op America Web site says. "Fair Trade premiums are also often invested in programs that teach farmers about recycling, organics, reforestation, and other strategies for building healthy communities."
Additionally, Fair Trade certification standards bar the use of toxic chemicals and pesticides, and Fair Trade products are grown using sustainable farming practices.
Several independent banana importers, such as Oke Bananas, Turbana, Albert's Organics and Jonathan's, offer Fair Trade Certified bananas that are available to distributors serving U.S. grocers, Co-op America noted.
Information about the Co-op America campaign can be found at http://www.coopamerica.org/takeaction/fairtradebananas/.