This article first appeared in The Exchange on February 6, 2012.
By Jessica Jones-Hughes, Equal Exchange Bananas
You may have heard about food co-op general managers, employees, church members, or Equal Exchange staff making the trek down to the places where coffee, tea and cocoa are grown. In October of 2011, Equal Exchange took our first delegation to see a very different product: bananas!
The banana team invited loyal and long-time Equal Exchange banana supporters on the adventure. The final group included five produce managers of Twin Cities-area co-ops: Dean from the Wedge Co-op, Kim from Valley Natural Foods, Nick from Mississippi Market, Jean from Eastside Food Co-op, and Travis from Seward Co-op. The weeklong trip to the Northern desert area of Peru was led by Jessica, Phyllis and Scott of Equal Exchange.
The group spent the first day in Piura with the primary-level banana co-op, APOQ, and the next four days with the secondary-level banana co-op, CEPIBO. We met with the co-op’s board of directors, learned about the successes and many challenges of Fair Trade bananas in Peru, saw bananas being harvested on the farms, and observed the washing and packing of bananas into boxes at packing stations. Many questions arose from the small-scale farmers and our group, both parties eager to learn about every aspect of one another’s lives: “What do people think of our bananas in the USA?”, “How much do you sell bananas for?”, “Why did you start growing bananas?”, “What does co-op mean in your country?” And so on.
Read more here.