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World Banana Forum: getting down to business

Some 200 people took part in the second global conference of the World Banana Forum in Guayaquil, business capital of Ecuador, at the end of February. International fruit companies, national producers, small farmers' organisations, trade unions of plantation workers, retailers, government representatives, scientists, certification bodies and NGOs met around an agenda for change in the industry that had been set two years earlier in Rome at the launch of the Forum. Banana Link's International Coordinator, Alistair Smith, reviews the progress and highlights some of the work in progress.

The welcome address on behalf of the multinational fruit companies noted that things have indeed changed in comparison with the tensions prevailing at the time of the first International Banana Conference in Brussels back in 1998. Not only are the different stakeholders now able to talk with each other, but we now have a permanent platform around which to structure our dialogue. Despite our different interests and perspectives we are now firmly embarked on a journey to put flesh on the bones of a common agenda for change. We have a rich diversity of resources and knowledge to bring to the table and now have the responsibility of delivering tangible results for current and future generations.
"We need to step up the speed of changes. I challenge us all to ensure these changes are achieved before my grandchildren reach adulthood", reflected the Corporate Responsibility Manager for a major European importer, echoing the feelings of many. The plantation and pack-house workers, who have borne the brunt of changes in the industry in the last couple of decades, and small farmers, who continue to struggle to compete with the bigger players, need to experience the difference that the Forum can make on the ground. It is good to talk, of course, but actions speak louder than words. 

The World Banana Forum is well and truly in motion; the agenda is clear. Let's all work to ensure that this early promise translates into results for all. 

Photo: deliberations in plenary at WBF II, Guayaquil, by Bara Mrazkova/Nazemi, Czech Republic

1. Introduction
2. Working Group 01: Sustainable Banana Production and Trade
3. Working Group 02: Distribution of Value 
4. Working Group 03: Labour Rights
5. Chiquita’s steps towards gender equality
6. Consumers are a key stakeholder
7. Small farmers show the way: mobilising all stakeholders

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