Rainforest Alliance removes certification from Honduran banana growers
A group of banana farms in Honduras has had its Rainforest Alliance certification removed in response to complaints over worker treatment, which the country's banana association says will lead to US$21 million in losses if exports are closed as a result.
A statement from the alliance and Sustainable Farm Certification International Ltda, said allegations were made in September that a group of banana farms called Las Tres Hermanas was not complying with Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards related to the fair treatment of workers and good working conditions.
"Las Tres Hermanas is a subset of a larger group of certified banana farms called COHFRUTSA. COHFRUTSA holds a group certificate pursuant to the SAN’s sustainable agriculture standards," the statement said.
"Following the procedure established for investigating complaints, SFC undertook a research audit to determine whether or not the complaints were valid. As a result of the investigation, COHFRUTSA was issued several non-conformances, including one related to SAN Standard criterion 5.2., which aims to protect workers from unfair discrimination and labor practices.
"Because criterion 5.2. is categorized as “critical,” COHFRUTSA’s Rainforest Alliance Certified™ certificate has been withdrawn, in accordance with SAN certification policy guidelines."
Honduras' National Association of Banana Producers president Héctor Castro told website Laprensa.hn the certification removal directly impacted 14 different growers and more than 4,000 families.
José Obregón, who is the legal representative of the farms Ana María, Bárbara and María, explained to the publication that the problem arose from the existence of two unions in the company and the fact the farms decided to negotiate with the union that had a higher membership; this was interpreted as discrimination against the smaller union.
The growers claim there has been no violation, as the Honduran Labor Code says there can only be one union and one collective contract within a company. An appeal was made to the country's courts this week, with producers seeking assistance from Ministry of Labor to explain to the Rainforest Alliance that processes undertaken were within the law.
Obregón told Laprensa.hn the farms could not use the Rainforest Alliance seal but exports had not ceased.