This British supermarket item has defied the trend during the financial struggle of living expenses. The cost of a bundle of bananas remains the same as it was three decades ago, making it a staple in the UK. Other countries with lower prices have their own banana producers.
The government is facing accusations of pursuing a reckless post-Brexit strategy that may result in a further decrease in the cost of bananas in stores. However, this could come at the expense of the livelihoods of numerous workers on small plantations in some of Africa’s most impoverished nations.
Latin American producers known as the “dollar banana” have a stronghold in the British market. They have taken advantage of EU-negotiated free trade agreements, resulting in lower import taxes (tariffs) and cheaper prices for their fruit.
In 2019, the EU made a commitment to not decrease tariffs on major producers in order to acknowledge the negative effects on smaller African competitors. However, with the UK’s departure, the EU is no longer bound by this promise to the most impoverished countries.
Based on Afruibana, the organization representing banana producers and exporters in Africa, it appears that the outcome will be a betrayal as the UK government plans to break their promise to safeguard them within the EU.
The UK has granted tariff exemptions for bananas to Mexico and Peru in the past year as a condition of joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). A trade agreement with Australia will result in the elimination of all tariffs within eight years.
The UK government is currently conducting a targeted assessment of banana tariffs in its trade agreement with Andean nations, namely Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. African producers are concerned that this could lead to the closure of businesses in Ghana, Cameroon, and Ivory Coast – countries with some of the most limited economic diversity globally.
The foreign secretary, James Cleverly, has refused to commit the UK to the EU pledge.
Joseph Owona Kono, the president of Afruibana, expressed his concerns about the UK’s decision to reduce banana tariffs for Peru and Mexico without consulting African governments. This could potentially impact the UK’s commitment to supporting and improving the African banana industry.
If the UK’s current dominant suppliers, such as Ecuador, Colombia, and Costa Rica, are also given similar concessions in future negotiations, it could result in fewer options for British consumers. This could also have a negative impact on the lives of thousands of workers, their families, and businesses that support the African banana industry.
In the UK, the supermarket industry is extremely competitive. For many years, brands have engaged in price wars to attract customers by offering heavily discounted bananas. This has resulted in low banana prices for British consumers, aided by the continuation of free trade agreements with the EU when the UK was a member. 90% of bananas available for purchase in the UK are sold by the top 10 retail brands.
The majority of suppliers in Latin America are from Colombia, Costa Rica, and Ecuador, making up 62.7% of the market.
According to Afruibana, African nations hold 11.5% of the market, which supports over 80,000 high-quality jobs and sustains approximately 500,000 people living in rural areas.
The producers from Africa argue that reducing costs for Latin American producers may not lead to a decrease in prices for British consumers. Instead, the savings will likely be retained by those further along the production chain, as the cost to the consumer is already very low.
According to Gareth Thomas, a trade minister in the opposition party, the lack of consideration for producers in Africa is part of a larger pattern of entering into agreements without fully comprehending the potential consequences.
He stated that it is not unexpected for ministers to harm the chances of the most disadvantaged individuals, especially those in a significant Commonwealth partner. The ministers have shown little concern for Africa, as evidenced by the dismantling of the Department for International Development and reduction in aid funding. This is another instance of a trade agreement signed by Liz Truss and Greg Hands without carefully considering the potential consequences in the long run.
The banana industry of the Windward Islands, mostly run by small farmers, has been greatly affected by tariff reductions for other countries. In 2012, the UK purchased 12,146 tonnes of bananas from the 30,000 farmers in Saint Lucia. However, by 2022, this number had decreased by 95% to only 541 tonnes.
A representative from the Department for Business and Trade stated that the UK is utilizing their trade strategy to assist in the growth of developing countries’ economies, while also promoting British businesses and aiding consumers. In the previous year, a new trading program was introduced for developing countries, aiming to make it easier for them to export to the UK. As a result, 99% of goods imported from Africa will be exempt from duties, leading to reduced costs for shoppers during checkout.
Essential items found in grocery stores that have defied the norm by remaining affordable.
Bananas per kilo: 115p in September 1990 and today 115p
In September of 1990, cucumbers cost 60p, but now they cost 83p.
In September 1990, the price of oranges was 21p per kilo, and today it is 43p.
Carrots per kilo: 57p in September 1990 and today 66p
The source of this information is the Office for National Statistics.