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Social Implications of the Banana Trade
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Social Implications of the Banana Trade


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Some backroom and brief sociohistorical analysis of the banana industry, created for an intro to horticulture class.

Some backroom and brief sociohistorical analysis of the banana industry, created for an intro to horticulture class.

Published in: Economy & Finance, Technology

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  • Transcript

    • 1.
        • The Social Implications
        • of the Banana Trade
    • 2. Starting Questions
      • What is the social context in which the production and exportation of bananas takes place?
      • What is required for the current large scale market-based relations of labor and trade encompassing the “banana industry”?
    • 3. Background
      • In 2005, the top banana exporting countries were Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Colombia. 14.8 million tons were exported worldwide at a value of over $2 billion.
      • The “big three” transnational corporations—Chiquita (United Fruit), Dole (Standard Fruit), and Del Monte—control 70% of the international banana market.
          • Combination of vertical supply integration and contract farming in order to get the lowest costs and highest profit margins.
    • 4. Background continued
      • Large-scale mono-crop plantations are typically used, many former haciendas.
      • By 1949, United Fruit owned 3.5 million acres across Latin America, a size comparable to Switzerland. How did this come to be?
    • 5. History
      • European colonialism: ethnic cleansing and marginalization of indigenous peoples.
          • Enclosure of commonly-held indigenous land by colonialists .
          • Emergence of landless ‘peasants’ and campesinos.
          • Slave labor imported from Africa.
      • ‘Independence’ creates nation-states controlled by landed elite with European descent.
          • ‘Banana republics’: concessions granted by these elites to American capitalists in order to “develop” Latin America.
    • 6. History continued
      • What happened when favorable concessions were not granted?
          • Long tradition of coups, bribery, and intimidation.
              • Honduran government fails to award United Fruit tax and duty free status, sponsors coup in 1903.
              • After 1954 land and labor law reforms in Guatemala, United Fruit lobbies US govt to intervene. US-sponsored coup of elected government sparks civil war that lasts until the 1990s and leaves over 200,000 dead.
              • United Fruit pays for supplies and lends CIA ships for use in botched 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
              • Massive bribery campaign becomes public in 1975, United Fruit CEO commits suicide.
    • 7. 1954 Guatemalan Coup “Banana Wars”
    • 8. Contemporary Issues
      • Worker conditions
          • Struggles over union independence and conditionality, compensation, healthcare—control over what one produces.
      • Environmental impact
          • Chemical usage, deforestation,
          • erosion, sustainability
    • 9. Worker Conditions
      • According to CIRAD, only 12% of final retail prices stay in the producing countries with an even smaller proportion going to small farmers (5-7%) and to plantation workers (1-3%).
      • Studies by the NUH in Costa Rica found that poisonings are 3x higher in banana producing areas than the rest of the country, which is already 8x higher than the world average.
      • Cited by HRW in 2002 for “serious human rights abuses” in Ecuador, including the use of violent intimidation, violation of environmental and labor laws, and illegal child labor.
      • Being sued by 2,400 workers in Costa Rica and 1,800 workers in Nicaragua for using dibromochloropropane (DBCP/Fumazone/Nemagon) nematocide, banned by the EPA.
          • Found guilty in a Nicaraguan court but refuses to pay ordered settlement saying court has no jurisdiction.
    • 10. Pesticide Poisonings
    • 11. Environmental Impact
      • Large scale monocropping requires intensive pesticides.
          • UKFG estimates 11 million liters of pesticides are applied each year to banana production regions. Application by aerial spraying occurs about forty times during each cultivation cycle.
          • A 1995 IUCN report found that the banana industry used pesticides an average of 19x more (per ha) than other agriculture industries.
          • Pollution of water sources, surrounding community heavily impacted
      • Erosion from deforestation and irrigation
          • Flooding and mud slides
    • 12. Concluding Thoughts
      • Development or dependency?
          • ‘Dependency theory’ proposes that the rich states require poor states to extract resources. They will engage in a wide range of practices—from disregarding the environment to resorting to physical violence—in order to maintain the status-quo.
          • Zero-sum logic means it is in the banana industry’s interest to maintain poverty of workers to minimize costs.
      • ‘Neutral’ or ‘not political’?
          • Everything one does is in a social context and has political implications—even buying something from the grocery store.
    • 13. Sources
      • Banana Link
      • Co-op America
      • Food and Agriculture Organization
      • Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala by Stephen Schlesinger & Stephen Kinzer
      • Bananeras: Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America by Dana Frank
      • Green gold: Bananas & Dependency in the Eastern Caribbean by Robert Thomson
      • In the Shadows of State & Capital by Steve Striffler
      • Bananas: The "Green Gold" of the TNCs by Anne-Claire Chambron