Banana sourcing policy holds key to feeding the world’s growing population says The Co-operative

February 27, 2012

In a move to mark this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight, The Co-operative today (Monday 27 February) announced a new banana sourcing policy, which could be the blueprint for feeding the world’s growing population.

The Co-operative, which was the first to launch Fairtrade bananas into the UK, has now switched all its bananas to 100% Fairtrade, with a unique sourcing model demonstrating unrivalled commitment to fellow co-operatives and small-scale growers, who between them will supply the bananas on a 50/50 basis. 

All of The Co-operative’s bananas are now supplied by fellow co-operatives, 23 of which are made up of thousands of smallholder growers from countries including Peru, Colombia and Ecuador. 

Bananas are the most popular fruit in the UK, and The Co-operative sells a staggering 230 million bananas a year - enough to circle the globe.

As part of its groundbreaking Ethical Plan, The Co-operative has pledged that if products can be labelled as Fairtrade, they will be, and by the end of 2013, the retailer hopes to be 90% towards this target.

Oxfam, which has teamed up with The Co-operative, believes that smallholder producers, many of which are co-operatives, are the key to feeding the extra two billion people that it is estimated will be on the planet by 2050, despite the gathering pace of climate change and dwindling natural resources.

Together The Co-operative and Oxfam will campaign for increased international investment to help smallholder growers and co-operatives to feed the world sustainably.

At a time when the United Nations has designated 2012 as the International Year of Co-operatives, they will also help to ensure that the role co-operatives play worldwide is recognised.

Group Chief Executive Peter Marks said: "Despite the economic downturn, Fairtrade sales in the UK continue to grow, and support for Fairtrade from our own customers and members is as strong as ever.  The switch to 100% Fairtrade bananas in more than 4,000 Co-operative stores in the UK is a demonstration of this commitment to Fairtrade, co-operatives and small-scale farmers.

"However, having been instrumental in bringing Fairtrade into the mainstream, we recognise the unique role we can play as a co-operative in going beyond Fairtrade and increasing support for our producers to tackle global poverty.

"Our new partnership with Oxfam is an example of this and is particularly timely given it’s the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives."

Barbara Stocking Chief Executive of Oxfam said: "Already, 500 million small farms in developing countries feed and support nearly a third of humanity. Many via co-operatives, which enable them to pool resources, realise economies of scale and secure fairer prices.

“Over a million farmers are now involved in Fairtrade, largely via co-operatives.  The encouragement of smallholder farmers – many of whom are women – offers the best route to sustainably feed the two billion extra people who will live on Earth by 2050.

“In the run-up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012, we call on the UK Government to champion the importance of increasing global food production in a sustainable and equitable way, and the crucial role that smallholder farmers and co-operatives can play. We ask that the UK promotes increased investment in sustainable smallholder agriculture in order to guarantee livelihoods for the poorest farmers, especially women.”

The Fairtrade bananas are sourced from a number of countries including Panama, where the retailer stepped in to support the Coobana co-operative of banana workers achieve Fairtrade certification.   

Furthermore, as part of its wider commitment to tackling global poverty, the Group is delivering a unique range of projects and initiatives that go beyond Fairtrade.

In Panama, for example, as well as a guaranteed price for their bananas and the Fairtrade premium, the co-operative is receiving an additional £260,000 from the retailer over a three-year period to deliver clean water, sanitation and fuel-efficient stoves, as well as co-operative development.

At the same time, a unique project created by The Co-operative and supplier Finlay Beverages and involving 11,000 tea smallholders in Kenya has come to fruition - with tea from the Kibagenge project being included in The Co-operative's 99 Tea for the first time.


Top banana facts:

  • In 2000, The Co-operative introduced the UK's first Fairtrade bananas
  • In Britain, we eat over five billion bananas every year
  • The word banana comes from the Arabic word "banan", meaning finger
  • The banana plant is not a tree, it is the world's largest herb
  • The "trunk" of a banana plant is not made of wood, it is made of tightly overlapping leaves
  • Bananas could help you to feel happier as they contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to promote relaxation and improve mood
  • The inside of a banana skin can be used to calm an itchy mosquito bite - many people find that rubbing the bite with the skin helps to reduce irritation
  • A medium-sized banana contains only 95 calories, and provides a quick-but-sustained energy boost in a natural, nutritious and easily digestible form with no fat, cholesterol or sodium
  • British Banana supplier, Fyffes, received its first consignment of bananas 124 years ago, in September 1888
  • A stem of bananas consists of “hands”, which consist of 10 to 20 bananas.  When a hand is split, the bananas become “clusters”, which generally consist of between three to eight bananas
  • The inside of a banana skin can be used to polish shoes!

Additional Information:

The Co-operative Group is the UK’s largest mutual business, owned not by private shareholders but by over six million consumers.  It is the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, the leading convenience store operator and a major financial services provider, operating The Co-operative Bank, Britannia and The Co-operative Insurance. Among its other businesses are the number one funeral services provider and Britain’s largest farming operation. As well as having clear financial and operational objectives, the Group has also set out its social and sustainability goals in its groundbreaking Ethical Plan, which specifies almost 50 commitments in these areas.

The Group operates 4,800 retail trading outlets, employs more than 106,000 people and has an annual turnover of more than £13bn.  Further information is available at


Contact Information:

Adele Mandy
Assistant PR Manager, Food National
The Co-operative Group
Tel: 0161 266 3591
Mobile: 0771 3314894