The Favorita Fruit Holding Company (FFHC) has revealed ambitious plans to increase exports of its bananas to Europe and promote international awareness of the sustainable production practices pioneered by the company in Ecuador under the Better Banana programme.

Ecuador is the largest banana exporter in the world, and the majority of the produce is grown on small family holdings, but Favorita's producers are hired with many strings attached because producers' farms are audited to ensure that they follow the strict guidelines of the Better Banana programme.

The Better Banana programme was introduced in 1991 by the international non-profit Rainforest Alliance (RA), as part of a bid to promote the preservation of the world's endangered, biologically diverse tropical forests. Banana production is traditionally an intensive agricultural activity but the programme demands that farms implement water pollution control, reforestation, and recycling projects. Favorita's bananas are not organic but the company operates an integrated pest management scheme.

Socially, the program also involves ensuring high levels of workplace safety, and the provision of education and health facilities for children and workers.

Dr. Helen Newing of the Conservation Agriculture Network presents Dr. Segundo Wong, President of the Favorita Fruit Company, a plaque for their environmental and social achievements.
Such programs "give whole communities a future," Vicente Wong Naranjo, executive vice-president of FFHC, told just-food.com.

According to Dr Helen Newing, from the RA's Conservation Agriculture Network, these requirements have "really made a difference at a national level", with increasing biodiversity in the rainforest areas, worker security and environmental regeneration.

The company's banana producing subsidiary Reybanpac was the first banana company in the world to achieve total compliance with the Better Banana program's strict international environmental and social standards. As Chris Wille, director of the RA's Conservation Agriculture Program, explains: "The Rainforest Alliance has been impressed by Favorita's continued efforts at environmental protection and improvements for workers despite low market prices for bananas and economic turbulence in Ecuador."

President of FFHC, Dr Segundo Wong, commented: "People in the UK and other European markets are very conscious about the environmental impact and the quality of the products they consume. Favorita has invested heavily in improving the way we grow our fruits to minimise the effect of the environment while maintaining high standards of quality. The environmental and social certifications awarded to the company are proof of our achievements."

FFHC was founded in 1997 as the result of a partnership between Wong's group of fruit companies with the Commonwealth Development Corporation (UK) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The Holding now consists of seven companies, specialising in fruits, packaging, aerial fumigation and the provision of education.