A new price war on bananas has erupted this week, sparking condemnation of the big four from suppliers and NGOs alike. Asda triggered the war on Wednesday when it cut the price of a kilo of bananas from 77p to 72p. Tesco and Morrisons followed suit on Thursday and Sainsbury's - which sells only Fairtrade bananas - matched the 5p reduction on Friday. This is the sixth annual banana price war to occur during April and May and the timing of the reductions was critical to retailers at a time of plentiful supply, said Simon Jackson, assistant manager of banana importer Nicholas Smyth. "The volumes of bananas on the market tend to increase at this time of year as growing conditions are at their best," he said. "With the start of the British soft fruit season and the arrival of Italian stone fruit, bananas come under a lot more competition than in winter. So supermarkets bring down the prices to keep them competitive." But Dominic Eagleton, policy adviser at Action Aid, said the reduced prices would hit the pockets of plantation workers, and contravened CSR policies. "The reductions are another salvo in a permanent price war for plantation farmers who work in appalling conditions," said Eagleton. "They demand high ethical, health and safety standards on plantations but workers are under pressure to earn every penny they can. The 5p reduction makes it harder to improve working conditions. It's double standards." The Fairtrade Foundation said the banana price wars would "have a devastating effect down the supply chain, putting pressure on suppliers and ultimately contributing to the poor treatment of plantation workers in the developing world", a spokeswoman said. She urged consumers to buy bananas with the Fairtrade logo. Sainsbury's has stocked only Fairtrade bananas since last July and matched the price of non-Fairtrade bananas at the rest of the big four. But an importer said that by matching its rivals, Sainsbury's - and its suppliers - would be worst hit, particularly as fuel prices had soared since the deal was struck. "Sainsbury's is already absorbing costs because of its Fairtrade commitment but it will seek to pass on the costs," he said. "The farmers are protected by Fairtrade, so the shipping and distribution operations will be hit. But these businesses are already barely breaking even because of fuel costs." A spokesman for another major importer told The Grocer that the big four were the toughest retailers in the world to negotiate with. "There is no evidence that sales rise because of these banana price wars. Bananas are a major weapon in price discounting - we don't like it and some of the NGOs in the exporting nations don't like it, either," he said. Asda defended the reductions, saying the price was part of a new supply deal that, it claimed, was equivalent to Fairtrade standards. "We have a collaborative deal with Fyffes, Chiquita and International Produce, which started in March," said a spokesman. "This new deal enables Asda to source direct from growers, working more closely with farmers and ensuring they get a fair deal. This gives better value for shoppers and greater supply chain transparency."