A group of 14 different growers and more than 4,000 families growing bananas in Honduras had its Rainforest Alliance certification removed in response to complaints over worker treatment. The country’s banana association said in December this will lead to US$21 million in losses if exports are closed.

The problem arose from the existence of two unions in the company after the farms decided to negotiate with the union that had a higher membership; this was interpreted as discrimination against the smaller union.

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, part of larger group of certified banana farms called COHFRUTSA, were not complying with Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards related to the fair treatment of workers and good working conditions.

“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 is categorized as ‘critical’, COHFRUTSA’s Rainforest Alliance Certified™ certificate has been withdrawn, in accordance with SAN certification policy guidelines.”

An appeal was made to the country’s courts, with producers seeking assistance from Ministry of Labor to explain to the Rainforest Alliance that processes undertaken were within the law.

Meanwhile the Rainforest Alliance announced that over 200 Rainforest Alliance Certified™ coffee farms in Central America have achieved climate-smart verification.

Located in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, these forward-looking farmers are preparing for the challenges already evident from a changing climate by meeting the standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network Climate Module.

By adopting practices that curb emissions and increase carbon storage, these farms have captured more than 218,000 metric tons of carbon — equivalent to the annual emissions of approximately 43,600 cars.

This achievement marks the culmination of a two-year project of the Rainforest Alliance and the coffee trading company EFICO Green Coffee and Cocoa that aims to promote the Climate Module among Central American coffee farmers that are vulnerable to the higher temperatures, erratic rainfall and pest and disease outbreaks that are aggravated by the unstable climate.