Fair trade standards for bananas

Fair trade is a way of trading products that aims to ensure that producers – in particular smallholders – receive a fair price and a secure livelihood. It mainly applies to goods produced for the international export market such as bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, tea or sugar. Since the late 1990s, the concept of fair trade has given rise to numerous initiatives and private certification schemes focusing on social and environmental criteria. Fair trade was defined by the coalition of the four main fair trade networks in 2001 as:

"a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South."1

There is no official standard for fair trade and any business can claim that its products are fairly traded as the term is not legally protected.

The main principles of fair trade are2 3 4:

  • Opportunities for disadvantaged and marginalized farmers
  • Transparency of relationships and accountability
  • Payment of a fair price
  • Respect for children’s rights
  • Gender equality and fight against discrimination
  • Safe working conditions
  • Capacity building
  • Respect for the environment

Examples of fair trade organizations and standards

Fairtrade International (see example below)


  • Standard developed by Fairtrade International (FLO), a not-for-profit association of Fairtrade organizations and producers worldwide founded in 1988 in Germany (it was first branded “Max Havelaar”)5.
  • The Fairtrade network includes 25 Fairtrade organizations, Fairtrade International, and FLOCERT (an independent certification organization)6.
  • Focused on both small producer organizations and plantations for benefiting both farmers and workers. Originally oriented towards social standards to guarantee fair trading relations and fair production conditions, but has increasingly incorporated environmental criteria.
  • The Fairtrade system includes 1.65 million farmers and workers in 1 226 producer organizations in 74 countries7.

Fair Trade USA

  • Non-profit organization that creates standards, certifies, and labels products on the US market that promote sustainable livelihoods for farmers and protect the environment.
  • Founded in 1998 in the United States.
  • Fair Trade USA has partnerships with over 800 brands and with 1.3 million farmers and workers in over 70 countries8.

Fair for Life Social and Fair Trade Certifications

They aim at ensuring fair trade relations all along the value chain. They were developed by the Swiss Institute for Marketecology (IMO).

  • Founded 1989 in Switzerland.
  • IMO provides about 70 different ecological and social standards.
  • More than 400 IMO experts operate in more than 90 countries9.

Fair trade non-certifying networks

  • The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) is an association of fair trade-committed organizations that adhere to the ten WFTO Principles2 of fair trade in their supply chain.
  • The Fair Trade Federation4 is an organization of businesses encouraging fair trade and equitable trading partnership practices without promoting a specific standard.

How to get certified

Regardless of the chosen type, certification is performed by a third-party organization to guarantee an independent and transparent assessment. These certifying bodies can be accredited to the ISO/IEC 17065 quality norm10 in order to guarantee their independence.

Example of Fairtrade International

Example of Fairtrade International

Since 2002, Fairtrade certification is granted to producers, traders and companies that meet the social, environmental and economic standards of the organization Fairtrade International. It guarantees producers a minimum price and a premium on product sales.

Between 2008 and 2013 Fairtrade International has been the voluntary standard with the most important growth in terms of certified hectares of bananas (almost 60%)11.

Fairtrade Standards

Fairtrade Standards aim to12:

  • Ensure that producers receive prices that cover their average costs of sustainable production
  • Provide an additional Fairtrade Premium which can be invested in projects that enhance social, economic and environmental development;
  • Enable pre-financing for producers who require it;
  • Facilitate long-term trading partnerships and enable greater producer control over the trading process;
  • Set clear core and development criteria to ensure that the conditions of production and trade of all Fairtrade certified products are socially and economically fair, and environmentally responsible.

Fairtrade Standards distinguish between13:

  • Core requirements, which producers must meet to be certified
  • Development requirements, encouraging producers to continuously improve and to invest in the development of their organizations and their workers.

Fairtrade banana certification

The Fairtrade Standards for banana production are different for small producer organizations and plantations that employ hired labour. The standards specific to bananas are included in the fresh fruit standards for small producer organizations and for hired labour.

Fairtrade Minimum Price and Premium

The minimum price paid to Fairtrade producers is determined by the Fairtrade Standards and Pricing Unit. It applies to most Fairtrade certified products. This price aims to ensure that producers can cover their average costs of production, and acts as a safety net for farmers at times when world markets fall below a sustainable level.

When the market price is higher than the Fairtrade Minimum Price, then the market price or the price agreed in the contract must be paid14. Producers and traders can also negotiate higher prices on the basis of quality and other attributes.

Fairtrade also pays the Fairtrade Premium to producers who sell on Fairtrade terms. This money goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions15.

Fairtrade Minimum Price and Premium for bananas

The Fairtrade Minimum Price for bananas is different for each country and is based on the average costs of production16. For each banana exporting country, Fairtrade defines a minimum price, at Ex Works and at freight on board level for conventional and organic bananas.

The Fairtrade price for organic bananas is higher than for conventional bananas. Additionally, Fairtrade has set a premium of US$1.00 per banana box of 18.14 kg that must be paid to certified organizations, which can later be invested in social, economic or environmental projects in their communities.

Certification process

Fairtrade Certification is awarded and verified by the third-party body FLO-CERT.

Step 1: Apply and receive the requirements for Fairtrade certification.

Step 2: FLO-CERT audits the compliance with relevant Fairtrade Standards. For traders, a ‘permission to trade’ (PTT) can be issued before the first audit. For producers, the PTT can be issued if no major issues are identified at the first audit and replaced by a certificate after successful conclusion of the audit follow-up.

  1. An individualized checklist is provided.
  2. Site visits, meetings and interviews with farmers, workers unions, managers and committees, analyses of financial and other documents.
  3. Final closing meeting: conformities, non-conformities and corrective options.

Step 3: Evaluation and correction of non-conformities with Fairtrade Standards.

Step 4: Certification: FLOCERT only issues a certificate when all non-conformities have been resolved. If the non-conformities are not major, a ‘permission to trade’ can be issued until the changes are all made.

Step 5: Follow up: three-year ‘certification cycle’, during which FLO-CERT conducts at least two more audits – one ‘surveillance audit’ and one ‘renewal audit’. If the first certification cycle is concluded successfully, a new certificate is issued. FLO-CERT also carries out unannounced audits.

Fairtrade banana facts17

  • Close to 90% of Fairtrade certified banana sales comes from the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.
  • In 2015, 553 047 metric tonnes of Fairtrade-certified bananas (55% of which were organic) were sold, an increase of 12% over the previous year.
  • In 2013-2014, the average Fairtrade Premium received by small farmer organizations producing Fairtrade bananas was €193 600, compared to the average of just over €100 000 for all certified products. Fairtrade banana producers received over €17 million in Fairtrade Premium money.
  • The average Fairtrade small farmer devotes 1.8 hectares to banana cultivation. This varies from an average area of under one hectare in Peru and the Windward Islands to more than four hectares in the Dominican Republic, and more than six in Ecuador.
  • In 2014, the number of banana farmers (11 600) and workers (10 100) — a 4% decline compared to the previous year —represented 1% of all Fairtrade farmers and workers.
  • In 2014, 15% of banana farmers and 14% of hired labour in Fairtrade-certified banana plantations were women (compared to the average of 23% and 48% respectively when all products are taken in account).



1 WFTO. Definition of fair trade

2 WFTO. 10 Principles of fair trade

3 Fairtrade International; WFTO. Charter of fair trade principles

4 Fair Trade Federation. Fair Trade Federation principles

5 Fairtrade International. History of Fairtrade

6 FLOCERT. Compliance criteria

7 Fairtrade International. Where Fairtrade works

8 Fair Trade USA. 2014 Press Kit

9 IMO. IMO in brief

10 ISO. ISO/IEC 17065:2012

11 ITC. 2016. The state of sustainable markets

12 Fairtrade International. Aims of Fairtrade standards

13 Fairtrade International. Standards map

14 Fairtrade. Fairtrade minimum price and Fairtrade premium table

15 Fairtrade. 2009. Explanatory Documents for the Fairtrade Premium in Small Producers’ Organizations (PDF).

16 Fairtrade International. 2016. Banana price announcement from Fairtrade International Standards & Pricing

17 Data provided by Fairtrade International