Friday, July 1, 2011

Banana Brain!

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about bananas. Banana brain, that’s me. It’s been on my mind a lot. I do not normally think much about bananas. I eat them. That’s about it. So why have they taken up so much of my thought life recently?

Here’s the thing: bananas are neither local nor sustainable. Not in my wildest dreams could I possibly claim them to be so. Unless of course you happen to have a banana in your backyard? I don’t. On my wish list, but they are finicky to grow in New Zealand even in our temperate-subtropical climate, so not exactly high on that list. I’m trying to live my life in a more ethical and sustainable way, and bananas don’t fit well with that.

Until now, I could ignore it. I knew that the bananas imported into NZ from the Philippines and Ecuador are not grown particularly safely, nor the workers paid a decent working wage. It bothered me. But not enough to stop eating bananas. It’s hard to break a habit of a lifetime, particularly when you have never personally been confronted by the reality of what that habit means to other people’s lives. So I put it in the ‘too hard’ and ‘doesn’t really apply to me’ categories.

But now things are different.

Fairtrade bananas have arrived at my local PaknSave and New World supermarkets. All Good Bananas. I got a brochure. I read their website. And I thought, and thought, and thought. Amy, you are a banana brain!

Do we make the switch? Do we carry on as we are? Why bother, why not? Ahhhh, back and forth I have been swinging. Here is a (brief) summary of my recent thoughts.

Why switch to Fairtrade bananas:
Less chemicals – better for me and better for the people handling and growing them, better for the land, waterways and overall health of the planet

Fair wages – the farmers get guaranteed a minimum price for their bananas, which means they can feed their kids and send them to school (now I’d be really upset if I couldn’t do that for my son)

The bananas come from a cooperative of 400 small community owned farms in Ecuador – that means that most of the profits actually go back to the community that produced the goods – they get to choose what it is used for, rather than a big corporation swallowing up the rewards of their hard work

Imported by a small New Zealand business that has obviously thought about the ethics of bananas and worked really hard to get Fairtrade bananas here!

Taste – fabulous! We have tried a few bunches while thinking things through. Mmmm, mmm. Yummy.

Why not switch to Fairtrade bananas:
Cost - $3.90 a bunch (850g-1.1kg), so more than ‘normal’ bananas (which are usually between $1.90 and $3.00/kg)

Our limited income – which makes a cost increase really difficult to absorb (could we eat less of them and more of something local, can we manage the cost of 20 bananas a week – our current horrifying total – no wonder we keep needing to traipse back and forth to the supermarket. We are nearly monkeys, we eat that many!!)

Availability – I’ve been keeping an eye out and sometimes there just haven’t been any in store when I’ve needed to buy bananas

Here we come to the crunch. Do I go with my beliefs, my ethics? It has been really easy to ignore the consequences of our banana-eating habits until now. There were no other options available. But now I have a choice.

A choice that will be better for my health, but in ways I can’t see.

A choice that will be better for other people’s livelihoods, but I will probably never meet them to hear their stories.

A choice that is better for the environment, but the effects seem so, so far away.

A choice that will cost, that might mean scraping some other little luxury out of our already thinned grocery list.

A choice that might mean eating less bananas than I WANT to this week because we don’t have money for the Fairtrade ones.

Hard, hard, hard. I really want to support Fairtrade. I buy Fairtrade hot chocolate, but hardly ever drink it so it’s not like it is making much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. But this is something we eat EVERY week. The more people who choose to buy Fairtrade, the more Fairtrade goods will be offered. The lower the end price will become, as costs of scale and production improve. The more standard businesses will be forced to look at the ethics of how they produce goods. Fairtrade is worth supporting. But not necessarily easy.

Having thought about this for a few weeks, and discussed it over and over with Boyo, my final conclusion (which is subject to change – does that mean it isn’t really final?!?) is that we will buy Fairtrade bananas when they are in stock and decent quality. We will try it for a couple of months and see if we can manage the cost. If there aren’t any there when we go to buy bananas, ‘normal’ ones will do. We will see how it goes.

If you want to know more about All Good Bananas and where you can buy them in NZ, check out their website here!



Olive Blue said...

Hi, I popped over from Down to Earth to read your On my Mind... We are trying to grow bananas at home (SE Qld, Australia) they are doing OK and the frosts have not hit them yet. See what the rest of winter brings.

MaxineD said...

Lots of thoughts.... I have yet to see fairtrade bananas here, and we need to have a regular intake of bananas as they are so high in potassium, and DH has an issue with being on the low side of that mineral............

Hear Mum Roar said...

You should move to Australia, problem solved! lol

Hi, I'm Chris said...

Dear Amy
I love bananas, but here in Australia where the best bananas grow because of the floods they can cost about $5.00 for two. I know because my DH has to have two every Saturday "his energy food" as he goes off to umpire Aussie rules football. Bananas are one of the best foods, but come at a huge cost at the moment.

Mary said...

Kudos to you. I should follow your example.

Dayla said...

Hi Amy,
I know what you are going through with trying to choose the right path for yourself.
Our banans in Melbourne Aust are around $15.90 per kilo at the moment. So we are not eating them at all.
I previous to the pric hile would buy the organically grown ones when they looked nice and the others when they looked better.
But I look at the whole scenario of choosing the organic/fairtrade purchase over conventional/unsustainable purchase as one of if you caqn afford it you should do the right thing and those of us who cannot must do what they can. I believe it is working, slowly. You see more organic and fairtrade stuff around so some one is buying it and then the prices will come down. So don't beat yourself up abput it. You should be proud you have a conscience to consider such things. Good luck in your choices, I wish our bananas were affordable, I am getting withdrawal symptoms.

Rose said...

I see what you mean. We grow bananas in Australia but NZ doesn't import them, hmm? Good for you Amy, go with Fair Trade.

Amy said...

You're right, Hear Mum Roar, moving to Australia would solve the banana problem!
Chris and Dayla, I feel your non-banana-eating pain! I remember that we just didn't buy bananas after cyclone Larry (we lived in Townsville for a few years) - it was a really BIG deal when I finally started buying them again - seemed like a terrible waste if they ended up in a cake rather than eaten fresh the day they were bought!
Hi Olive Blue, I do hope your bananas grow well for you. Are they cavendish, or ladyfinger or another variety? I so miss eating ladyfinger and sugar bananas! We can probably grow ladyfingers here, given the right conditions but we need a property of our own first. Grin.
Rose, you are right, NZ imports from the Phillipines and Ecuador. I imagine Australia only grows enough for its own consumption.
Maxine, perhaps you could ask your local supermarket about the Fairtrade ones (if you want to) as they should have access to them, being the same chain as where we buy ours from.

Thank you all for your comments and for popping in to visit!

Adele said...

Thanks for the food for thought, I've linked this post on my blog ;-) (found you via Down-to-Earth). I agree with Dayla's comment: we should make the best choices we can in our circumstances. Baby steps will eventually get us there...

~Adèle aka The Queen of Avalon