Prior to the hurricane, which hit at the end of October, the three main banana-producing islands St Lucia, St Vincent and Dominica supplied some 65,000 boxes of mostly Fairtrade bananas a week to the UK. The majority went to major retailers such as Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, Waitrose and M&S.
Hurricane Tomas, which ripped past the islands on 30 October, devastated banana plantations and wiped out 100% of banana production on St Vincent and St Lucia as well as 50% of production on Dominica. The loss of production also means farmers will lose the premium they gain from Fairtrade sales of bananas, which is invested in production capacity and social development projects for the wider community.
Producers fear it could take as long as nine months before they are able to get up and running again and supply Fairtrade bananas to UK retailers, according to the Windward Islands Farmers Association.
WINFA is concerned that, having sourced alternative supply in the meantime, retailers might not revert to sourcing from the region. "We want to get some commitments from retailers that, even though we understand they have to meet their commitments to their customers, when we come back into the market in nine months' time, they continue to source from us," said WINFA co-ordinator Renwick Rose. He is currently in the UK and is working with the Fairtrade Foundation to arrange meetings with retailers to get the guarantees WINFA is looking for.
Sainsbury's the only big four retailer to stock 100% Fairtrade bananas has pledged its support. "We will resume sourcing as soon as bananas become available again," said banana buyer Finbar Cartlidge
Asda also said it would continue sourcing from the islands once supply resumes.