Episode 192: Audee Rios and Daniella Velazquez De Leon
Dec 10, 2021
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Even pre-supply chain crisis, pre-pandemic, banana prices have been unfair and almost unethical. But especially in the past three years the organic banana industry has faced enormous cost pressure. Packing materials, cartons, pallets, etc. have risen close to 20%. Organic fertilizer has also increased significantly, and, of course, labor costs are rising year after year. All of these things factor into how bananas are priced, and yet, we aren’t seeing the prices rise like the rest of the food industry. This episode discusses some of the problems organic banana companies are facing during this supply chain crisis.
Audee Rios is the Sales Director at Coliman Mexico. She’s worked at the company for twelve years and develops sales plans and explores new markets for Mexican bananas. She’s now mainly focused on organics and fair trade. Daniella Velazquez De Leon is a fourth generation organic banana grower and third generation of the largest family owned banana wholesaler in the USA, Organics Unlimited. She joined the family business officially four years ago and is now the General Manager. She, of course, wears many hats. Their main focus since day one has been organic bananas.
For Coliman and Organics Unlimited, the grand majority of their banana production comes from Mexico. In terms of getting their product to the States, that hasn’t been too hard since they’re able to use trucks instead of boats. But materials, fertilizers, everything that goes into aiding the production of those bananas – that’s where the problem with the shipping containers comes in for them.
As organic production has become mainstream and has gained popularity, large multinational companies have penetrated the organic industry. This isn’t all bad as it makes organic produce more widely available to consumers. But when we lose sight of the original mission behind the organic movement, that’s where the problem begins. What happened with conventional bananas is now happening with organic bananas. There’s been a control on the price in growing regions which are increasingly dependent on a small number of multinationals, which are forcing the price down in spite of increasing prices. Daniella’s key message to consumers is to be conscious and try to learn about what’s going on in the growing regions and who you are buying your produce from. Costs are going up so consumers should see the price of their produce go up as well. Rising costs WILL have an impact on the economic sustainability and competitiveness of the organic banana industry.
What Daniella has heard in the past is that retailers aren’t willing to sell bananas at a higher price, and consumers aren’t willing to pay more. Her response to that is that there simply will be no more production if they’re consistently selling their product at a loss. Certifications come at a cost. Paying fair wages with benefits comes at a cost. Supporting these independent growers and these smaller wholesalers who are actually living their values ensures that we are still getting truly organic and sustainable produce. Consumers have to be willing to pay a fair price for what these growers are providing.
Even with the rise in prices, organic bananas are still one of the cheapest organic options you can buy. If you’re seeing organic bananas being sold for less than a dollar, that farmer isn’t getting paid fairly. Paying a higher price for organic bananas doesn’t mean you’re getting overcharged, it means you’re ensuring the farmers and growers can survive.
You can find more information on both of these companies at their websites:
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