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Banana Economics Forum Bananas are the number one exported fruit in the world, and the number one fruit eaten in nearly every country. This forum is for discussions of the economics of bananas involving producers, economists, consumers, transporters, wholesalers, and governments.


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Old 07-25-2009, 10:50 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Chiquita - An Awful Short History

This is a good one here:

Nikolas Kozloff: Chiquita in Latin America
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Old 07-25-2009, 11:21 PM   #2 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

Oh no!!! not again!!
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Old 07-26-2009, 12:06 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

What do you mean "not again?!?!?" It's STILL HAPPENING here.
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Old 07-26-2009, 06:51 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Angry Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

Same old song and dance, just no dancing Chiquita banana girl to charm the public. You know it's a bad economy when Chiquita who practically invented propaganda er ah, public relations left that part of the equation out.
Still easy to follow the trail of bodies though. Thanks for posting , I had missed this.
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Old 07-26-2009, 07:34 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

I agree with bobs statement.
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Old 07-26-2009, 08:00 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

I would like to see a report on the same history from a less left leaning source, although I don't think I will.

The outrage and anger I see here seems a bit manufactured.

The real question is....What are you going to do about it? If the conditions are so brutal, why do people continue to work on the plantations? We all know the answer.....because there is nowhere else to work that pays what Chiquita pays.

While there is definitely a situation that we would not tolerate here in the USA, the company does provide income for families that would not be achievable without.

Let's play a mind game. Suppose that you're able to mobilize a worldwide protest and boycott of bananas, in order to make Chiquita aware of your unhappiness. The immediate result, of course, would be the termination of the jobs they've created as there would be no demand for the product. So that probably wouldn't work. Perhaps a unionization effort was successful and the workers conducted a strike? Two really bad outcomes here. Either the workers are locked out and have their meager incomes ended, or the company hires scabs. Potential for violence is increased and problems increase with this scenario.

The problem with sweatshops is that they are successful merely because its the best option available to people with no other means. Without sweatshops, the people in these areas would be markedly worse off than they are with them.

Its an ugly fact, but no less real. To improve the economy for the workers, it would be in the interest for the government to help in expanding the numbers of swaetshops; with the labor pool shrinking as a result of competition, wages would rise, conditions would improve and thenational economy would expand.

What stops this from happening is government corruption.

So, do not blame the companies, blame the government. In almost every case, government is the problem, not the solution.
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Old 07-26-2009, 09:08 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

Well I, for one, have stopped buying Chiquita bananas. Dole too. And not just for their behaviour.

Look into the history of United Fruit and you'll see that they've got not only Central America's government where it wants it but the US government as well. Bay Of Pigs was started because of bananas, the European tariffs, various other problems with military and CA governments not wanting to give in to UF. All because of bananas.

Then there is the chemical spraying that has killed and made a lot of people very sick. On top of that the ignorance UF showed with not wanting to deal with finding better suited bananas (which, I'm sure, is essentially impossible) for growing in those areas where the various diseases are romping with glee with plants that aren't supposed to be there.

Go to Wal-Mart and look at the price of Chiquitas - last I saw they were 49 cents a pound because that's how Wal-Mart wants them to be, not Chiquita. Doles at Rouses or Winn Dixie are 69 cents a pound.

People spend $1.50 on a whatever ounce plastic bottle of tap water named Dasani or whatever yet complain about the price of GAS!??

Bananas are insanely underpriced.

I was just merely pointing out the politics as usual aspect of Chiquita by putting that article here.

So what do I do? I've done what I can do -I've stopped buying. And what's even funnier is with this whole 'green' movement - no one stops to think about the carbon footprint of bananas (or a lot of other bland fruits from California or Mexico like mangoes and watermelon, etc...I've been buying locally grown watermelon, tomatoes, apples, etc, things that are in season).

Perhaps I'm the only one that has been thinking about the carbon footprint?
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Old 07-26-2009, 09:31 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

bepah, you're not going to find a less left leaning source than myself. I've done 2 articles on this for Bananas Quarterly and have done countless hours of hopefully unbiased research prompted mainly by my desire to once again eat the famous Gros Michel before I sign off for the last time.
I agree whole heartedly that governmental pressures play a prominent role in affecting the overall lives of the workers. Some of the sources I checked out were in fact written by left leaning grandstanders with an agenda, most notably one by an English author I won't name publicly because I won't give him or his book any publicity.His was clearly biased and just an attack on any form of capitalism. Still those pressures are generated by the deep pockets and less than honest business practices. Some of the Central American native population was literally forced in to labor of an industry forced upon them by the brutal and often murderous practices of the installed governments on behalf of their corporate benefactors. They literally just wanted to be left alone to the lifestyle they were comfortable with,even if that meant living in what we'd consider squalor. However that same populace was violently uprooted and forced in to the service of the government/company.
In the earliest days UFC went as far as to import Jamaican labor in to other countries simply because of their genuine willingness to EARN their living.

"Its an ugly fact, but no less real. To improve the economy for the workers, it would be in the interest for the government to help in expanding the numbers of swaetshops; with the labor pool shrinking as a result of competition, wages would rise, conditions would improve and thenational economy would expand."

Ideally this would work if those same sweatshops were able to fairly compete. The reality is far more complicated.
To me the best solution and it ties in with another thread going here ,would be to diverisify the crop and the promotion of regionaly grown varieties allowing for real capital gains for all involved. It would benefit the consumer, I'd love to try 10 varieties of banana at any given time. It would benefit the environment not to have the vast monocultures that could have ended the industry altogether had they not found the relatively bland Cavendish as a replacement. There would certainly be no loss for the big corporations as the market could potentially expand.Finally, there would be incentive for real competition among the regional growers.
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Old 07-26-2009, 09:43 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

Hey Bob, if I named that author you're talking about and said his name was Peter Chapman would you let me know if I was right, warm or cold or wrong? Ha ha.

If that is who you are 'not' talking about I must say I found his book to be very odd and even quite confusing. A good example is his mentioning of Zapata. That really threw me for a loop. Dan Koeppel obviously did more research for his book. But Chapman, he ignored the Vaccaro Brothers outright (other than saying "Italian company in New Orleans" a few times - maybe he's a stock owner of Chiquita?) and what that all turned out to be and why, which, to me, just seems really really odd in terms of the history of United Fruit etc.
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Old 07-26-2009, 10:57 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bepah
Let's play a mind game.... Perhaps a unionization effort was successful and the workers conducted a strike? Two really bad outcomes here. Either the workers are locked out and have their meager incomes ended, or the company hires scabs. Potential for violence is increased and problems increase with this scenario.
This isn't a mind game here in Ecuador, Bepah. Please take this as a statement of fact from somebody who's been witnessing this on a monthly basis. The Chiquita and Dole workers, who are unionized, are still on strike until such time as a contract that will provide them a living wage is agreed upon. Until that time, both companies have been hiring scab workers at $5 a day which is actually $2 a day more than the striking workers were earning under their old contract. There is picketline violence every day, and because Chiquita can afford to pay off the cops and the government, it's the striking workers that are going to jail. Certainly in this case both the company and the government are at fault.

Some background: the current Ecuadorean LAW is $5 per hour minimum which is defined as the amount that people must be paid in order for them to afford the basic life necessities (food, shelter, clothing). Plantation workers, who are on 12-hour shifts, were getting far less than 1/12 of that, and the scabs are getting exactly 1/12. However, since Alvaro Noboa (who heads Chiquita in Ecuador) is politically very well placed, and is filthy stinking rich, he can stop most government inquest. Equally, since Bananas are a major component of Ecuador's economy, the government is loath to mess with them - even if just Chiquita shut down production for a month, we'd see something similar here to the US Great Depression.

Combine this with a violent opposition to any form of diversification (for example, the "specialty" bananas for export are also monocultured, rather than found in mixed-plantation) and you've got yourself a feudal system that is most likely not going to change any time soon.

I've said my bit. This infuriates me, because it is unjust and illegal, but there is little I can do about it save to continue buying my fruit and plants from smallholders.
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Old 07-26-2009, 11:51 AM   #11 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

The more people growing here the less has to be purchased in the store. One of my actual goals has been to get as much food as possible produced within 100 miles. Its astounding how much gas and natural resources go into shipping things.
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Old 07-26-2009, 12:52 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

Exactly. That's the carbon footprint problem - if that kind of thing matters to people. I know it matters to airlines.

I have the possibility of using a lot of land in Jefferson Parish that only has Ornatas growing on it right now. It's not huge by any means but it is big enough to grow possibly 10 or 15 rows of different bananas on. I figure as far as weed control I'll just mow whatever is growing and make sure it's blown onto the plants, therefor acting as a fertilizer (somewhat - I know grass clipping work fantastically). Get some different bananas going and take them to a farmer's market or two and see what happens. If I don't at least break even with plant costs, well hell, then I guess I'd just sell the plants. But it might be fun to do some kind of LOCAL small grove farming... I'm not sure what to call it. Musa Plantation Grounds? Ha ha. Something with a bit of a wink. Also I don't think or know of anyone growing plantains in the New Orleans region so that might be interesting as well.

Cause I'm not gonna spend a ton of money on fert and generally in the New Orleans area one doesn't really need it. Irrigation might be the only problem. We just don't get the daily rain like we used to.

As far as crime goes I'd just move the Ornatas to act as a screen. Hopefully if I were to do it no one would just walk in and take the fruit.
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Old 07-26-2009, 03:50 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

Suppose that we could produce more Bananas in the USA, under US labor laws, we'd need at least 500,000 acres of bananas. And realistically, you have about 100000 suitable acres here in Florida, and about the same in Puerto Rico. I suppose there are portions of California that are suitable, but where are you gonna find people to work in the plantations. Puerto Rican bananas in the grocery store are the same price as they are here so you really can't make the argument that US regulations would make it prohibitive to grow and make a profit. Well me and my five acres are doing our part to supply bananas domestically. Think of the options of bananas you would have if they didn't have to ship very far?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TommyMacLuckie View Post
Exactly. That's the carbon footprint problem - if that kind of thing matters to people. I know it matters to airlines.

I have the possibility of using a lot of land in Jefferson Parish that only has Ornatas growing on it right now. It's not huge by any means but it is big enough to grow possibly 10 or 15 rows of different bananas on. I figure as far as weed control I'll just mow whatever is growing and make sure it's blown onto the plants, therefor acting as a fertilizer (somewhat - I know grass clipping work fantastically). Get some different bananas going and take them to a farmer's market or two and see what happens. If I don't at least break even with plant costs, well hell, then I guess I'd just sell the plants. But it might be fun to do some kind of LOCAL small grove farming... I'm not sure what to call it. Musa Plantation Grounds? Ha ha. Something with a bit of a wink. Also I don't think or know of anyone growing plantains in the New Orleans region so that might be interesting as well.

Cause I'm not gonna spend a ton of money on fert and generally in the New Orleans area one doesn't really need it. Irrigation might be the only problem. We just don't get the daily rain like we used to.

As far as crime goes I'd just move the Ornatas to act as a screen. Hopefully if I were to do it no one would just walk in and take the fruit.
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Old 07-26-2009, 04:05 PM   #14 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

Thats why the goal is to grow as much of my own food as possible
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Old 07-26-2009, 04:30 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

I don't know how well it is actually implemented on the ground, but the fair-trade program that deals with bananas, coffee, etc... seems to deal with the low wages paid to workers. Ultimately though, the American consumer is not very concerned with anything but aesthetics and price. And because of the price thing we end up missing out on taste. When looking at the commercial varieties of fruits like the Tommy Atkins Mango or the Gran Nain banana you are looking at a fruit that ships well, looks good and to hell with the taste. The same could probably be said for Pineapples as well although those Del Monte Gold pinapples are a vast improvement over those acid-green things they were selling. Although during my adventures through Puerto Rico I found out that farm ripened ones were pretty much like biting into pure sugar.
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Old 07-26-2009, 06:04 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

With the way things grow in New Orleans and the surrounding area there, specifically, from what I've seen it could be quite possible to get people interested in growing different bananas. Hell, even Grand Nains without all the spraying would probably taste better.

And barring another levee busting storm surge there is a lot of vacant land in New Orleans that could become banana farms or lots. But it would take some work. There's all this BS talk about 'green space' where no one is able to rebuild - I bet the mindset is to plant more crape myrtles - just what the SE needs. In Mandeville they're everywhere. I hate them. They are the most overused tree in the Southeast.

I would buy bananas if there were more to choose from and if they were closer to home for me. I do tend to get the organic bananas that show up every now and then. I think that is worth supporting. No matter - I'm working on doing it myself. I have gotten other people into growing their own, even though they're mostly Orinoco. But they do taste good when they get enough size to 'em.

If only I could get a Gros Michel! That would be so cool.

One thing I have noticed the past year is LESS Chiquita stock and more Dole. I see Chiquita at Wal Mart and various small grab'n'go stores but in the groceries it seems to all be Dole.
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Old 07-26-2009, 06:39 PM   #17 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

It seems that they are loosing a little bit of Walmart's business as well. The article I read said that Walmart wants it cheaper so they are going to other sources.

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Old 07-26-2009, 07:10 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

Quote:
Originally Posted by lorax View Post
This isn't a mind game here in Ecuador, Bepah. Please take this as a statement of fact from somebody who's been witnessing this on a monthly basis. The Chiquita and Dole workers, who are unionized, are still on strike until such time as a contract that will provide them a living wage is agreed upon. Until that time, both companies have been hiring scab workers at $5 a day which is actually $2 a day more than the striking workers were earning under their old contract. There is picketline violence every day, and because Chiquita can afford to pay off the cops and the government, it's the striking workers that are going to jail. Certainly in this case both the company and the government are at fault.

Some background: the current Ecuadorean LAW is $5 per hour minimum which is defined as the amount that people must be paid in order for them to afford the basic life necessities (food, shelter, clothing). Plantation workers, who are on 12-hour shifts, were getting far less than 1/12 of that, and the scabs are getting exactly 1/12. However, since Alvaro Noboa (who heads Chiquita in Ecuador) is politically very well placed, and is filthy stinking rich, he can stop most government inquest. Equally, since Bananas are a major component of Ecuador's economy, the government is loath to mess with them - even if just Chiquita shut down production for a month, we'd see something similar here to the US Great Depression.

Combine this with a violent opposition to any form of diversification (for example, the "specialty" bananas for export are also monocultured, rather than found in mixed-plantation) and you've got yourself a feudal system that is most likely not going to change any time soon.

I've said my bit. This infuriates me, because it is unjust and illegal, but there is little I can do about it save to continue buying my fruit and plants from smallholders.
You are supporting my point exactly. Unionization does not work, especially when the labor supply is so large. It seems pretty clear that when some of the workers refuse to work (via the strike), wages go up, as the supply of workers shrinks. It has nothing to do with smacking the union down, it is simply a supply and demand solution. Once the strike is over (if it ever is) the number of workers goes up and the wages go down.

My 'sweatshop' solution does not mean that there needs to be more banana processors, it mean that there needs to be more industry everywhere in other aspects of living. The skill level required for entry level work cannot be too demanding in the banana processors, the same for any entry level job. If the Ecuadorian government was truly interested in helping the working classes, they would be promoting investment in any industry that would generate jobs. from you post, you seem to imply that government officials are more interested in lining their own pockets that in the overall welfare of the people of Ecuador. This is the standard government corruption model that we see promulgated here in the States.

The unions of today are also interested in one thing, to line the union leaders pockets. Through the intimidation model, their own members are being hurt.

You have a real problem that will not be solved until such time that the government is there to support the populace. I hope it happens, but this country is going rapidly toward the SA model as well.

Consumers who choose to not consume those products (bananas, etc) are actually helping the companies/governments by reducing demand for the supply, which causes reduction in prices, hence the WalMart ability to charge so little, as the demand is weaker.

A little common sense goes a long way when it is used. While the situation is bad in Ecuador with little hope of solution, consumers boycotts have no positive impact as there are not enough people to participate and those who do not, benefit from the softer prices. Bananas are still going to be grown and sold, they are perishable....prices will adjust to meet the demand.

It is sad that these problems exist, but there are wolves out there, and the sheep are nervous.....since they have no tools to defend themselves.

Finally, with regard to my 'manufactured rage' comment. It is one thing to not agree with a practice and aver to the high heavens on how one feels; it is a much different thing to take things into ones hands and try to make a change. There are few people in history that have taken the risk of life and limb to try and affect change. They are called revolutionaries.

I am not unsympathetic to the situation, but I cannot make changes by posting on electronic forums and no one else can either. I hope thing settle for the better in Ecuador (as well as here).

Take care.
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Old 07-26-2009, 07:30 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

very political, the workers are seriously oppressed and survive so little. Like most of the small countries they are forced to except what is given them. It will be a long time before there will be a great leader that can truly bid for the people they are supposed to represent. If we read all the history that some of these companies have done, if you have any moral felling it should make you sick at what they have done, and are still trying to do today as we live breath!
I have no more confidence in this new goverment than i did with the old one.
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Old 07-27-2009, 04:58 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: Chiquita - An Awful Short History

Just 3 things I would like to say:
1. I've read Ecuadorean history from the U.S. Department of State & other sources, as well. Sorry Bepah, but the Ecuadorean people have done more to actively & violently protest corruption & affect political change than most any other country I've read about.
2. I've also read John Steinbach's "Grapes of Wrath". Nobody will ever find the truth on the Left or Right side of the fence (it's always somewhere between) but that & the history that follows clearly support the need for unionization; pacifism changes exactly nothing and, in fact, supports corruption & greed.
3. As a loyal American, I would take Extreme exception to the slaughter of fellow Americans simply because they seemed to stand in the way of a business.
4. I think Bob's got a point & I want more great nanners, too .

Okay, okay.... 4 things to say.

Last edited by Eric : 07-27-2009 at 05:00 AM. Reason: Not finished
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