Commitment from an increasingly critical mass of retail, fruit company, trade union, governmental and certifier stakeholders involved in Latin American and African banana trade chains to actually implement change on the ground in banana exporting countries now looks irreversible.
The aim is two-fold: to gradually 'fill the gap' between national minimum wages and living wages, by supporting mechanisms that deliver higher minimum wages for all workers; and, through dialogue and negotiation, to raise actual wages to living wage levels.
The proof of the pudding is of course in the eating - on the ground, where it matters most. The World Banana Forum (WBF)'s permanent Working Group on the Distribution of Value along the Chain is now set on a clear path to achieving living wages for plantation and packhouse workers over the next few years.
Fairtrade and at least two big European retailers are leading the way, with major brands like Dole and Chiquita as well as Latin American and African fruit companies putting ideas and funding on the table. Workers are also at the table in the shape of independent trade unions representing nearly 20% of those directly employed across the industry.
Living wage indicators
|Official mimimum wage||28.216||28.246|
|Living wage per person||25.323||26.956|
Living wage per family
|Living wage per earner||126.619||134.782|
|Official mimimum wage||100,71||141,48|
|Living wage per person||50,74||59,60|
Living wage per family
|Living wage per earner||101,48||119,20|
The tables above, showing the gap between legal minimum wages in agriculture and three living wage indicators  are from a September 2013 study by the Center for Intelligence on Sustainable Markets (CIMS) at Central America's most prestigious business school, INCAE in San José, Costa Rica. The five biggest Latin American exporting countries and the largest exporter in the ACP group - Dominican Republic - are also included in the six-monthly studies.
This study, together with a series of practical initiatives and useful tools to help generate new value and/or redistribute existing value, will be presented at the full meeting of the WBF's permanent Working Group in the Dominican Republic, 22-23 November 2013.
Progress will be reported to the third full conference of the World Banana Forum in Santo Domingo in the second quarter of 2014.
The World Banana Forum Secretariat is currently hosted by the Trade & Markets Division of the FAO in Rome and can be contacted at [email protected] (attention Gianluca Gondolini and Maria Felicia Arnal).
Alistair Smith is International Coordinator, Banana Link/Euroban, and co-convenor of the WBF Working Group on the Distribution of Value along the Chain.
 Extract from the first six-monthly study, based on a calculation methodology originally developed by Ergon Associates Ltd (London) and further developed by a team at CIMS-INCAE, with funding from corporate members of the World Banana Forum: Tesco Stores, Dole Food, Bamagruppen and Grupo Agroamérica.