Sustainability

Chiquita bananas on the farm: it’s all about sustainability

Sustainability

May 26th 2021 ・ 5 min reading

When you buy a bunch of delicious, top quality Chiquita bananas at the store, it can be hard to imagine them growing on banana plants back on our tropical farms far away in South and Central America. But that is exactly where their journey starts, and the farms play a really important part in our exciting sustainability story. Let’s have a look at how our delicious bananas start their lives, and how we care for them.

Caring for our land: rejuvenation

As farmers, we understand that to grow the best, sweetest bananas they need to have the ideal growing conditions and care. At Chiquita, our farms are the heart of our business – our Employees at the Centre program runs initiatives to ensure our employees have the right training and support, and are healthy, safe and motivated in their work. This sets the basis for our Farm Rejuvenation and Reengineering program, one of our top priorities, which intends to improve efficiency, increase yield, and drive down our environmental impact substantially while also ensuring the best possible banana quality.

The program involves improving our land and soil, switching banana varieties, increasing the number of plants grown in an area, and improving crop cover. This is an important part of our sustainability vision – making the most of our existing land rather than planting new areas. We aim to increase yield by 25% in this way. Our goal is to have 76% of our land rejuvenated in this way by 2022.

Farming for future generations

Because we are constantly thinking about the future, we carefully plan and optimize what we put into our land, water and agriculture as well as planning for our future workers by safeguarding decent work for all – this is all set out in our Farmers’ Code.

Our rejuvenation program has given us a really great opportunity to remove one ton of plastics per hectare of soil, a relic of a past system used for growing bananas. This gives us the opportunity not only to improve our soil and biodiversity but also to analyse it, making sure it contains all the right nutrients for producing fantastic bananas.

Chiquita banana farm 2

Cover crops

We want to limit soil erosion and get rid of pests in the most natural way possible, and one of the best ways to do this is by planting cover crops. We’ve done a lot of testing to find which plant species work best, and we’re now rolling them out across our farms. This will allow us to reduce the amount of herbicides we have to use. We plan to expand these crops wherever they can be used and by 2021 we aim to have covered 65% of our area.

Reducing our water footprint

At Chiquita, we also know that reducing the amount of water we use is really important. Because of this, we’ve based our strategy and water management policies on the results of independent World Wildlife Fund studies, which has allowed us to significantly improve our water footprint.

The amount of water we use varies a lot from country to country – in some places, we are able to rely on rainfall, and our land rejuvenation program has also helped us to ensure the maximum amount of water is available. However, in some areas that experience dry seasons, and due to the effects of climate change, we do need some irrigation. As part of our rejuvenation program we’re investing in mini and micro irrigation and do not use wasteful overhead irrigation.

Driving down chemical use

We do everything we can to avoid using chemicals when growing our bananas. We’ve reduced our use in many ways – by intelligent crop rotation, ensuring plant health, preventive defoliation (stripping off leaves where needed), monitoring pests and using traps, and integrating precision agriculture into pest management.

We only use chemicals where pests are posing a risk to a crop, and only use approved products, closely following supplier guidelines. This is closely monitored through our farm certification by the Rainforest Alliance and Global Gap. We also use the best possible application methods and schedules, and rotate the chemicals used to avoid building up resistance. We’ve succeeded in ensuring that 92% of the products we use are low toxicity.

Strategy for the future

We’re currently working on our sustainability strategy for the next 20 years, in which our farms will play an important role. We’re determined to play our part in meeting the sustainable development goals and international agreements set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. To do this, we’ve made three main commitments.

  1. First commitment: each farm is completely individual, like a person – different soil, different climate, different geography, different people – so what makes each one as sustainable as possible will vary. The first thing we intend to do is to map the current and likely future areas where we will grow our bananas. This will help us to identify where we can put in place low-input organic systems and also where non-biological controls will be the only way to enable commercially sustainable farming. The mapping will guide our investment.
  2. Second commitment: we’re also going to grow as many bananas as possible organically, taking our skills, care and focus on quality developed through our conventional farming and applying them to this low-impact approach. In this way, we aim to make organic produce as available and affordable as possible.
  3. Third commitment: where we can’t move to organic farming, we will use the best possible agricultural practices to minimize our carbon footprint to help the world meet the aim of keeping global warming to within two degrees. We will monitor and report on this every year.

You can see that when you buy a delicious and nutritious Chiquita banana, there’s a lot going on beyond the cute yellow fruit that you see. When you buy a bunch of our bananas, you’re working with us on a sustainable future. Thank you.

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