• ©FAO/Victor Lopez
  • ©FAO/Victor Lopez
  • ©FAO/Victor Lopez

Why a permanent forum on bananas?

Bananas are the world’s most exported fresh fruit both in volume and value. This fruit is exported primarily from developing countries to industrialized countries, the latter accounting for close to 90 percent of world net imports. With global exports estimated at over US$ 7 billion in 2008.

Bananas are an essential source of income and employment for hundreds of thousands of households in developing countries, notably in Latin American, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and West Africa. However, agrochemical-intensive banana production on large-scale plantations, distortions along the value chain and declining producer prices have given rise to environmental and social challenges. Meeting these complex international challenges requires the involvement of all stakeholders of the banana sector worldwide.

Two international conferences preceded the creation of the WBF to discuss the aforementioned challenges and how to address them. The second Conference in 2005, gathered around 250 stakeholders of the banana sector [1] and reached consensus on the need for establishing a permanent multi-stakeholder forum. This consensus was reaffirmed in a series of meetings and workshops held from 2006 to 2008 with the participation of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the International Labour Organization (ILO), FAO, representatives from the governments of banana exporting and importing countries and NGOs. The stakeholder's suggested that the forum be facilitated by the United Nations since ensuring neutrality was deemed a critical factor of its success.

In 2009 FAO, with co-funding from the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom (DFID), implemented the Multi-stakeholder Forum on Sustainable Banana Production and Trade (MSF) project. The MSF facilitated a preparatory committee composed of a balanced number of representatives from the banana industry, civil-society organizations and national governments whose role was to lead the organization of an international forum on sustainable banana production and trade ("World Banana Forum").

The Forum was held at the FAO's headquarters in Rome in December 2009  with the participation of over 150 representatives from the banana sector worldwide. The participants agreed the key issues affecting the industry and prioritized to work on them. They formed three specialized working groups to carry out activities to address these issues. Most importantly, they decided to establish the World Banana Forum (WBF).

[1] This term includes: producers, their organizations, trade unions, cooperatives, exporter groups, private companies (including major banana marketing companies, traders and retailers), public agencies, governments, research institutions and civil society organizations.