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Alternative trade in bananas: Obstacles and opportunities for progressive social change in the global economy

Abstract

Fair trade bananas are the latest inan increasing array of commodities that are beingpromoted by various organizations in an effort tocreate alternative production and consumption patternsto the environmentally destructive and sociallyinequitable patterns inherent in traditionalproduction and trade systems. Fair trade is touted asa strategy to achieve more sustainable developmentthrough linking environmentally and socially consciousconsumers in the North with producers pursuingenvironmentally sound and socially just productionpractices in the South. Promotion of fair tradebananas in Europe has achieved impressive initialgains on the consumer end of the commodity chain,capturing 10 percent or more of the banana trade inseveral countries. Yet in spite of these gains, thefair trade banana initiative appears to beencountering serious obstacles to its further success.We argue that the primary challenge in creating atruly alternative trade in bananas stems from thedifficulties of upholding rigorous social andenvironmental standards in the face of increasinginroads into fair trade markets by transnationalcorporations producing under less rigorous conditions.We then develop a series of options for strengtheningfair trade banana initiatives in both Europe and NorthAmerica. We conclude by arguing that the case ofbananas illuminates the general question of how toachieve more progressive and sustainable productionand consumption systems within a global system thatdrives production and consumption toward greaterintegration and homogenization under the control oftransnational corporations.

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Murray, D.L., Raynolds, L.T. Alternative trade in bananas: Obstacles and opportunities for progressive social change in the global economy. Agriculture and Human Values 17, 65–74 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007628709393

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  • Alternative trade
  • Bananas
  • Fair trade
  • Globalization
  • Sustainable development