The most widely eaten and traded fruit in the world, bananas are grown in warm and humid conditions. Bananas ripen all year round, and are important to farmers, workers and families in more than 150 countries as a source of nutrition and income.

Bananas are cultivated on small-scale farms and large plantations; Fairtrade works with both forms of production. Smallholders produce just 5 % of the internationally traded bananas, but play a large role in rural development.

Banana farmers and the roughly 600,000 banana workers in global supply chains face low earnings, due to heavy price pressure in the supply chains. The pressure originates with consumers and retailers: Retailers often rely on the appeal of cheap bananas to draw shoppers to the store.

Salient issues

Neither smallholder banana farmers nor banana plantation workers typically earn enough for a decent standard of living.

Smallholder banana farmers struggle to compete with large plantations, because many buyers prefer to negotiate with fewer, larger suppliers.

In addition, the Cavendish dessert banana, which dominates international trade, is often grown in monoculture plantations that require significant volumes of water and agrochemicals. This causes significant harm to people’s health, biodiversity and clean water. Agroforestry or organic cultivation can avoid many of these adverse impacts.

It takes collaboration between retailers, traders, farmers and workers to change these risks and root causes.

The salient issues in the banana sector are (in the order of saliency):
Living Income, Living Wage

Banana producers face very low prices. Smallholders struggle to compete with large plantations. Research suggests that Colombia and Ecuador are the only large producer countries, where living wages are close.

Water & Biodiversity

Imprecise fungicide application by air contaminates surrounding areas and waterways. High water consumption alters the availability of water in local communities and ecosystems.


In banana chains, farm activities, sea transport, transport in consumer country, and consumption may cause roughly equal amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. On farms, most emissions are caused by nitrogen-based fertilizers. 

Working Conditions

Working conditions differ from country to country, but excessive overtime, informal work arrangements and harsh conditions for migrant workers are common.

Freedom of Association

Many banana farms do not engage with trade unions in social dialogue, and union members and organisers continue to face pressure, retaliation and blacklisting.


The risk of pesticide exposure is elevated for banana farmers, workers and local people. Resulting symptoms range from headaches to cancer and children born with deformities.

More information on risks in bananas

Root causes

Unfair pricing and purchasing practices: Retailers are estimated to capture a lion's share with some even 30 - 40 % of the value from banana sales. Other downstream actors combined capture roughly 40 %, while producers capture 7 - 17 % and workers 7 - 9 %.

Dominance of monoculture production: Chemical intensive production methods drive biodiversity loss and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and health risks.

Climate change: Banana cultivation will shift away from some of today’s main producer countries.

Background data on bananas (*Global Volume / **Fairtrade Volume)

Largest producer countries*

  • India (36%)
  • China (12%)
  • Indonesia (10%)
  • Nigeria (8%)
  • Brazil (7%)
  • Others (26%)

Data from 2022. Source: FAO, 2024.

Dominant production model*


of bananas cultivated in Ecuador come from smallholder farms

2016, FAO

Global production*


million tonnes in 2022. Source: FAO 2024.

Fairtrade certified producer organisations**


Data from 2022. Updated in March 2024.

Fairtrade certifiable production**


metric tonnes, 2022. Updated in March 2024.

Farmers and workers in Fairtrade organisations**


Data from 2022. Updated in March 2024.

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