Ecuadorian govt takes aim at German banana documentary
The Ecuadorian government has accused a German documentary on its banana industry of “conspiring against jobs” with information that aimed to “discredit” the country, which is the world’s largest exporter of the fruit.
The NDR documentary “The Price of Bananas” (“Der Preis der Bananen“) highlighted cases where fumigators in the South American country used a pesticide – Calixin – that is banned in the European Union, and the health impacts of such pesticides on nearby communities.
The journalists spoke with banana workers who did not have contracts, discussing the headaches they received from aerial fumigation, while a teacher spoke about how her school’s pool was unusable due to the film of pesticide residue that would form on the surface.
The video also included a confronting scene with a young girl with facial deformities that were allegedly a result of the chemicals used in banana farming.
The main argument of the Ecuadorian government’s release is that the filmmakers ignored the measures introduced in recent years by both the public and private sectors to ensure quality and safety for final consumers, as well as executing “the strictest standards in environmental, labor and social terms”.
“The film…affirms the existence of cases of intoxicated workers on plantations in Ecuador, but official figures show a reduction in these cases, mainly linked to improper handling of products and a lack of protective equipment,” the goverment release said.
“Ecuador has environmental regulations, currently being strengthened in issues concerning aerial spraying, and intensifying checks on farmers, wholesalers, retailers, distributors and companies.”
The Ecuadorian government highlighted the industry was committed to traceability, and that bananas were vital for 20% of the population as the main employer in 9 out of the country’s 24 provinces.
In January this year, NGO Oxfam released its study “Bitter Bananas” alleging violations of worker rights in Ecuador, and was very critical of the role of several German retailers in allowing this treatment.
Leading German retailers such as Rewe, Aldi, Edeka, Lidl and Metro responded claiming they demanded all relevant standards from suppliers.
The Oxfam report author Dr. Franziska Humbert told NDR while the Ecuadorian government had made progress in the elimination of child labor and the introduction of statutory social security, the enforcement of trade union rights and health protection were still “considerable shortcomings”.