Market\'s End: Fair Trade Social Premiums as Development in Dominica

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MARK MOBERG University of South Alabama

Market’s end: Fair-trade social premiums as development in Dominica

A B S T R A C T On the island of Dominica, in the eastern Caribbean, the sale of fair-trade bananas generates “social premiums” to fund projects that the government can no longer afford because of structural adjustment. Promoted as a means of democratic decisionmaking, social premiums operate in an “awkward zone of engagement” between development policy and local practice. Their uses are constrained by fair-trade certification, as well as

elaxing over a few beers, Cecil Joseph appeared to be in an expansive mood.1 He had just concluded a meeting of the fairtrade farmers’ group he presides over as president in Morne Baptiste, Dominica. During the meeting, farmers had discussed how to spend their “social premiums,” rebates earned from fair-trade sales that are intended to promote local development. Asked for an example, Joseph described how a recent project was funded by his group:


by the gender, class, and political nexus of farmers’ groups and communities. As a development strategy and system of governance, fair trade invokes universal narratives of democracy and pluralism, but its effects are expressed through local dispositions of identity and material practice, as well as competitive “ethical” markets. For farmers, global competition and rigid certification standards signal an impending “market’s end,” the closure of their last alternative as agriculturalists. [fair trade, social premium, Great Recession, neoliberal development, governmentality, Dominica, Caribbean] Nan zile Dominica nan Karayib la, peman sosyal ki soti nan eksp`otasyon bannann selon pratik kom`es ekitab finanse pwoj`e av`ek ki gouv`enman an pa ka koresponn pout`et ajisteman estriktir`el yo. Yo f`e yo pase pou fason pou f`e desizyon demokratik, men peman sosyal opere nan yon “z`on angajman dw`ol” ki ant politik devlopman ak pratik lokal. Jan yo s`evi a jwenn limitasyon nan kesyon s`etifikasyon kom`es ekitab, ak tout kesyon s`eks, klas av`ek kont`eks politik gwoup f`emye yo ak kominote yo. K`om estrateji devlopman ak sist`em gouv`enans, kom`es ekitab s`evi ak diskou demokrasi ak “pliralis”, men ef`e li soti nan idantite lokal av`ek pratik matery`el, ansanm ak konpetitisyon nan mache lokal. Pou f`emye yo, konpetisyon global av`ek estanda s`etifikasyon tw`o sev`e anonse “fen yon mache” ki san l`e rive, pwen final nan d`enye posibilite yo k`om agrikilt`e. [kom`es ekitab, peman sosyal, Gwo Resesyon, devlopman neoliberal, gouvernementalit´e, Dominica, Karayib]

Well, this is how it works. A request came from the school that we help the children with a greenhouse. So we used our social premium and assisted them with that. It was about $11,000 and change.2 So, after the requests come, we took it to the membership at our monthly meeting, and they in turn would agree, yes, let us do that. You should have seen the look on the principal’s face when I told him we would fund his project! That’s so satisfying to be a farmer and to help out. It’s like the Bible says: “Give and it will be given to you.” Joseph’s enthusiasm accords well with much fair-trade advocacy, which extols social premiums as grassroots initiatives in which farmers themselves decide how to assist their communities, unlike development schemes directed by the state. Yet, as Dominica’s economy continues a catastrophic decline that started in the 1990s, such enthusiasm is rarely voiced by the rank-and-file producers who generate premiums in the first place. Their waning support resides in fair-trade practices that are little different from other forms of past hierarchical governance, albeit newly clothed in a language of participatory development. The rise of fair trade in Dominica is tied to neoliberal interventions that stripped the eastern Caribbean of a long-protected market for the region’s primary product, bananas. After a decade in which export earnings collapsed, the government of Dominica turned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for support to meet its debt obligations and to pay for essential imports. In exchange, the country was subjected to a familiar litany of structural-adjustment measures—privatization, a reduction in public services, and increased taxes—intended to generate revenues for debt repayment (Laurell 2000). Because the consequences of such measures fall disproportionately on the poor, who rely on state services, structural adjustment in many countries has AMERICAN ETHNOLOGIST, Vol. 43, No. 4, pp. 677–690, ISSN 0094-0496, online C 2016 by the American Anthropological Association. All rights reserved. ISSN 1548-1425.  DOI: 10.1111/amet.12383

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provoked often-furious protests (sometimes called “IMF riots”) among those on the margins who face further deterioration in their standard of living (Edelman 1999; Pfeiffer and Chapman 2010). Having experienced several general strikes after public-service cutbacks, as well as spontaneous road blockades and work stoppages since then, Dominica is no stranger to IMF-inspired protest.3 Whether from political expediency or genuine concern for citizens affected by budget cuts, heavily indebted governments struggle to find alternatives to meet public needs. Among these alternatives are the social premiums generated by fair-trade producers, who earn a cash rebate from their sales as well as prices intended to cover their costs of production. Social premiums are intended for use on projects of local design, with producers themselves voting on how to spend the rebates. The rapid expansion of fairtrade initiatives in recent decades has created a significant volume of potential development funding through social premiums. Among the 1.4 million farmers, workers, and artisans worldwide affiliated with Fairtrade International (FLO), the world’s largest fair-trade organization, there are 624,000 members in Latin America and the Caribbean alone (FLO 2014c, 3). In 2013, FLO-affiliated producers worldwide generated $111.4 million in social premiums (FLO 2014b, 2). Many socially conscious consumers regard fair trade as a form of resistance to the effects that unfettered global capitalism has on the poor and the environment (Shreck 2005, 22–23). This view informs a growing “ethical turn” in consumption (Brown 2013, 16). Notwithstanding such beliefs, social-premium-based development closely accords with neoliberal doctrines that prescribe a reduced role for the state in favor of market-based initiatives (Dolan 2008; Guthman 2007). Since the 1970s such principles have largely replaced those of Keynesian development models rooted in state regulation and expansionary public spending to offset economic downturns (Harvey 2007; Helleiner 1994). The abandonment of protected markets and multilateral agreements, such as the International Coffee Agreement and Lom´e Convention, which were designed to stabilize prices, pushed producer prices for many commodities to unprecedented lows by the close of the century (Jaffee 2007, 42–45).4 By extending a higher price and social premium to producers operating under ethical conditions, fair trade claims to “re-embed” trade within values of social justice and environmental stewardship (Raynolds 2000; see also Guthman 2007). In this sense, the initiative has been likened to a “Polanyian counter-movement” challenging the corrosive effects of unregulated markets on traditional communities and social structures (Wilson and Mutersbaugh 2015, 284). In the absence of an effective state, policy makers regularly invoke “civil society” as embodied in fair-trade organizations and other NGOs as the primary means by which social needs are to be met. Hence, the initiative has emerged as both the


consequence and a concomitant of economic restructuring throughout the Global South, in the process becoming a chief mechanism of neoliberal governance (Ferguson and Gupta 2002, 982). Indeed, despite its Polanyian discourse, fair trade has been upheld by the World Bank and other arbiters of the neoliberal world order as a preferred alternative to the state regulation and price controls that were formerly mainstays of Keynesian policy (Fridell 2007, 94). When enacted “on the ground” in sites of production and decision-making, fair trade both embodies and departs from a lofty discourse promoting the initiative as a mechanism for empowerment and development (Besky 2013; Jaffee 2012; Moberg and Lyon 2010). As the certifying body that establishes criteria for fair-trade participation, FLO mandates a model of direct democracy by which farmers are to decide how to allocate social premiums. Yet fair-trade policy makers in the developed North also orchestrate the use of premiums to achieve objectives often at variance with those of farmers themselves. The Dominican fair-trade banana producers featured in this article, as well as those I studied earlier on nearby St. Lucia, are cross-cut by identities of class, gender, and social position that impinge on how projects are proposed, contested (or, more commonly, not), and ultimately adopted. Grounded in universal narratives about participatory democracy, gender equity, and farmer-community relations that mesh uneasily with local practices, fair trade has the potential to serve as a development mechanism, but this potential is undercut by a global market that privileges some localities over others. FLO’s criteria for fair-trade membership operate as “techniques of governance” (Foucault 1991, 92) in both production and community life. Development, in this view, is to be attained through privatized, “voluntary” means and measured through both traditional metrics of income growth as well as less tangible social rubrics of political pluralism, transparency, and a vibrant civil society (Mosse 2005, 3–4). Among Dominican producers wishing to access the fair-trade market—for most, their last remaining source of agricultural income—these requirements in practice are no more consensual than the codified regulations and enforcement mechanisms of formal governments. In this “awkward zone of engagement” between policy and practice, there is continuous “friction” (Tsing 2005) between the values that fair-trade producers are expected to embrace and their prevailing views of farming and community. Primary among these is an assumption of seamless exchange and mutuality between the farmers who produce social premiums and the surrounding communities that benefit from them. Frictions engendered under this neoliberal development project are accelerated by the volatile markets in which fair-trade producers participate. As a lingering global recession dampens demand for some fair-trade goods, “ethical” producers operating under highly variable costs and conditions of production

Market’s end

throughout the Global South are pitted against one another for a shrinking market niche. The result, I suggest, is that higher-cost Caribbean farmers now encounter a looming “market’s end,” in which they have exhausted this last alternative available to them as agricultural producers. Like the “land’s end” facing marginalized commodity producers elsewhere (Li 2014), the grim choices confronting Caribbean banana farmers today are grounded as much in local realities as in large-scale political-economic forces and universal (fair-trade) narratives. Witnessing the extinction of what one grower described with cautious optimism to me a decade ago as his “last, best hope” (Moberg 2005, 13), farmers today bear the costs of fair-trade governance in its minute regulation of production and local development, but reap few of the benefits it once promised for sustainability.

Free trade and fair trade in the Windward Islands The Windward Islands of Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Grenada are small Commonwealth countries in the eastern Caribbean, each of which won its independence from Britain in the 1970s and 1980s. Many residents of Dominica and St. Lucia speak a French-based Creole (known as Kw´ey`ol) besides the official language of English, reflecting a period of contested control over the region by France and Britain throughout the 18th century. During that time, Dominica’s economic niche centered on timber and coffee production geared to the larger nearby sugar-producing islands, with a social order consisting of African slaves under the direction of Creole (white and “colored”) Francophone planters (Green 1999; Trouillot 1988). Both during and after slavery viable estate production was doomed by a continuous flight of Afro-Caribbean laborers to inaccessible areas in the island’s rugged interior (Pattullo 2015). Following recommendations of the West Indian Royal Commission of 1897, British officials sought a measure of political stability in the region by extending land titles to squatters and former slaves (Marshall 1993). The result was a “reconstituted peasantry” (Mintz 1984) consciously created to contain explosive conditions of poverty and destined to produce export crops for Great Britain (Richardson 1997). Dominica’s banana industry, like its peasantry, owes its development to political expediency and careful nurturing by the colonial and later national governments (Mourillon 1978, 18–24). During the 1930s, the United Kingdom sought new sources of bananas to avert a monopoly over the domestic market by the US-based United Fruit Company, now known as Chiquita (Clegg 2002).5 Britain identified its Windward Island colonies as promising alternatives to United Fruit and heavily supported agricultural extension, credit, and growers’ associations on each of the islands

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(Trouillot 1988, 124). Averaging less than 1.3 hectares and employing fewer than three full-time wage workers, farms in the Windwards are minuscule compared to those of Central and South America (Raynolds 2003, 32–35). Because of the region’s high wages, lack of irrigation, and rugged terrain, Caribbean bananas cost nearly three times as much to produce as those from Central America (Wiley 2008, 214). Nonetheless, for decades Windwards farmers enjoyed a modestly profitable guaranteed market in the United Kingdom, as British policy makers considered tariff-quota protection as preferable to the direct grants otherwise needed to sustain vulnerable island economies. At the industry’s peak in 1991, nearly 29,000 banana growers operated on the Windwards, about 5,800 of them on Dominica alone (NERA 2003, 28). Caribbean farmers have long prided themselves as independent producers, often contrasting their autonomy with what they regard as the pitiable dependence of day laborers. “When you work for wages, you are only working to make money for somebody else,” a third-generation female farmer told me in 2004. “They want you as a slave, to do their bidding alone.” With regard to the growing and handling of bananas, however, the autonomy that farmers so highly esteem was long ago undercut by Geest (now known as WINFRESH), the corporation that buys their fruit and exports it to Britain. Farms and inspection points are routinely sites of confrontation between farmers and company agents over the size, quality, and packaging of fruit. Nominally a neutral party in such contests, the state in practice loomed large as a de facto agent of the exporter. During the heyday of the industry, island governments commanded an army of field officers and agronomists who enforced the production standards that Geest considered essential to retailing bananas in the United Kingdom (Grossman 1998, 2003). In ways both organized and surreptitious, growers resisted state intrusions on their autonomy, culminating in a 1993 growers’ strike that precipitated government takeovers of banana growers’ associations (BGAs) on each of the islands (Slocum 2006, 137–53). Preferences that had guaranteed access to the UK market for Caribbean fruit all but ended following a 1998 World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that struck down the British tariff quota, a decision that heavily benefited Chiquita and Latin American producers.6 The WTO ruling and liberalization of the European market allowed a flood of cheaper Latin American bananas into the United Kingdom, driving down prices and devastating producers throughout the Windwards (Payne 2008). By 2003, more than 80 percent of all island banana farmers had abandoned export production, most leaving agriculture altogether (Edmunds and Shillingford 2005). Holding the dubious distinction of greater dependence on bananas than any other country in the world (NERA 2003, 32), Dominica went into economic freefall, its export earnings plunging 70 percent in


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10 years (Payne 2008). Facing a looming default on its foreign debt, Dominica’s government turned to the IMF for standby credit in 2001, 2003, and 2006 (IMF 2013). Among the consequences of structural adjustment were publicsector layoffs, sales-tax increases, a new value-added tax, and duties that placed many imported goods beyond the reach of most islanders. In response to the WTO ruling, island BGAs began promoting fair trade in the year 2000 as a final recourse for the region’s remaining growers, who hoped to benefit from the higher producer prices it offered. Island governments also announced a “privatization” of the industry and withdrawal of state involvement. Rather than enhancing the autonomy of farmers, this restructuring shifted governance over farmers from state agents to fair-trade NGOs. Fair trade has also engendered a proliferation of entirely new mandates on farmers in production and development. To receive producer prices about 45 percent higher than that of conventional fruit, fair-trade growers must meet certification standards intended to achieve social justice and environmental sustainability. In their certifying and auditing roles, FLO policy makers and field officers contribute to privatized but no less coercive practices of governmentality by defining themselves “as experts who know how others should live” (Li 2005, 384). FLO’s field officers and auditors regulate access to the region’s sole remaining export market (Shreck 2005, 24–25), a powerful strategic position that farmers deride as “gatekeeping.” For their part, many of the personnel formerly employed by the state to regulate banana farmers now find comparable work as privately employed agents of fair trade or WINFRESH. Farmers’ compliance with FLO requirements, all of which originate in Europe, is monitored through annual site visits by European auditors and more frequent unannounced inspections by island-based field agents. Among a host of notices in fields and packing sheds, farms are required to display placards that read All Visitors Are Welcome. Appearing as voluntary invitations to outsiders, the signs are a visible symbol of a regulatory regime in which farmers surrender their autonomy for continuous surveillance and auditing. Any WINFRESH or FLO representative is empowered to suspend or “decertify” noncompliant farmers from fair-trade sales, decisions for which there is no grievance procedure or appeal. Most field agents perform inspections while farmers are absent to avert the confrontation that ensues when someone is told in person that they may no longer export fruit. Fair-trade provisions banning chemical herbicides and nematicides are the most controversial instances of friction between FLO’s policies and farmers’ practices. When hosting “gatekeepers” and other influential visitors on their farms, farmers are careful to affirm the new rules and to outwardly conform to them. A few farmers, with


backgrounds in ecotourism and sporting dreadlocks, describe the new regime to appreciative foreigners as keeping with Dominica’s identity as the “nature isle” of the Caribbean, an oasis of sustainable agriculture surrounded by the region’s most spectacular scenery. In the hidden transcript of one-on-one and small-group interactions among themselves, however, most farmers complain that the new protocols have worsened pest and disease problems, increased labor costs, and prescribed farming methods designed in Europe that are ineffectual in tropical agriculture. Other sources of friction arise from new social criteria introduced by FLO. Fair-trade farmers are expected to participate in cooperatives that operate democratically (on a one-member, one-vote basis) and in a nonexclusionary manner with respect to gender, ethnic, political, or religious identity. Monthly meetings of farmers’ groups not only disseminate information on certification and auditing but also provide the venue in which members are to decide how social premiums are to be spent. Other than the occasional credit union, usually organized by local churches, no recent precedents existed in the Windwards’ rural communities for such organizations.7 In most cases their members were recruited by nonlocal BGA staff members working hastily to assemble fair-trade groups bound by geographic proximity that would satisfy the requirements of certification. Despite their members’ frequent lack of prior experience in working together, farmers’ groups are charged with executing fair trade’s primary development mission, one that has expanded as the state’s presence in rural areas recedes. Seeing their revenues curtailed by declining exports and structural adjustment, cash-strapped Caribbean governments view fair trade as a means by which some of their citizens’ needs may be met. Once an ardent critic of the deregulated banana market, St. Lucian prime minister Kenny Anthony now affirms that “the social premium . . . generated through Fairtrade sales provides invaluable support for projects in rural communities throughout the Windward Islands” (Fairtrade Foundation 2011). On neighboring Dominica, the government’s chief economist also embraced market-driven social justice following the WTO ruling, albeit more guardedly: “We had a protected market that allowed our people a pretty decent living. The WTO and IMF have seen to that now. The free market is the only game left in town, and we must resign ourselves to it and use it however best we can.”8 As they dispense resources often exceeding those of island governments, farmers are drawn into conflicting social, political, and institutional fields that govern their decision-making. Not the least of the exogenous factors impinging on this participatory model of development is the global fair-trade market and the NGOs that govern access to it.

Market’s end

The anatomy of a price war Since 2005, every 18.14-kilogram (40-pound) box of fairtrade bananas from the Windward Islands has generated a social premium of $1 (FLO 2014a).9 Social premiums provide the bulk of support for island-based national fair trade organizations (NFTOs), which ostensibly represent farmers’ interests in civil society and act as umbrella organizations over local fair-trade farmers’ groups. Much like the former BGAs during their period of state control, one of their major roles is to familiarize farmers with the mandates of WINFRESH and British retailers. The NFTOs on each island also oversee the social-premium accounts of local fair-trade groups and review their projects before releasing funds. Such audits are to ensure compliance with FLO guidelines restricting premiums to projects that enhance local working and living conditions. Additionally, 70 percent of all premiums are to be allocated to the broader community rather than to projects that exclusively benefit farmers. Through these mandates, fair-trade producers are expected to render many services formerly provided by government. Testifying before the British House of Commons, Dominica’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, extolled social-premium initiatives as preferable to traditional state-funded projects: The Government takes no part in deciding which project farmers fund, how it is implemented, who is contracted to do it and who is employed on it. It is left entirely to the farmers to decide it. We have somebody who is illiterate but sits in a meeting and contributes to a decision to assist a particular school or build a playing field or basketball court because he has some young people in his community who are becoming involved in delinquency. It is amazing to see the joy and sense of achievement among those poor farmers as a result of the social premium which Fairtrade offers them. (HCIDC 2007, 8) The potential benefits of social premiums are not insignificant in Dominica, where the poverty rate of 40 percent is the highest in the Windwards (UNDB 2010). From 2000 to 2010 the island received over $2.8 million in such payments (NFTO 2010), a considerable sum given the country’s small (and diminishing) resident population of 73,000.10 In the United Kingdom, where all export-grade Caribbean bananas are sold, hundreds of fair-trade products have become supermarket staples since the 1990s. Brandishing fair trade as a measure of corporate social responsibility, supermarket websites feature images of smiling artisans and farmers who describe how the initiative has benefited their communities (Sainsbury’s 2015; Tesco 2015). FLO has also mounted promotional campaigns encouraging institutional buyers such as schools,

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churches, and local governments to purchase only fairtrade goods. In FLO’s early years, these promotional efforts stimulated phenomenal growth in global fair-trade sales, which climbed from $510 million in 2002 to $6.5 billion in 2011 (FLO 2004, 2011). Aggregate figures, however, belie growing unevenness in fair-trade consumption. Most recent growth has reflected fair trade’s expansion into new national markets, while demand in more established European and North American markets has leveled off. Between 2008 and 2009, global sales of fair-trade fresh fruit declined 24 percent (FLO 2009a, 15), another 14 percent in 2010 (FLO 2011, 3), and 12 percent in 2011 (FLO 2012, 13). In 2014, sales of all fair-trade goods in Britain, the world’s leading fair-trade consumer, fell for the first time in 20 years (Guardian, February 22, 2015). These declines reflect market saturation and a global recession that reduced demand for those fair-trade goods selling at a much higher retail price than their conventional counterparts.11 On British supermarket shelves, fair-trade fruit from the Windwards shares space with bananas from the Dominican Republic and Colombia that bear identical FLO logos, although their packaging does specify place of origin. The otherwise similar labels of fair-trade goods mask highly distinct conditions and costs of production. FLO calculates minimum producer prices (based on costs of sustainable production, or COSP) for fair-trade commodities from its surveys of farmers over wide geographic areas. The ensuing prices paid to growers reflect local agricultural conditions, infrastructure, input costs, prevailing wages, and shipping costs, all varying greatly by region (Farquhar 2012). Further, since FLO’s producer price standards are based on reported average costs, by definition many farmers incur expenses higher than the regional benchmarks. Fair-trade bananas from different countries may look alike, but their growers will have received substantially different prices. Fair-trade producer prices range from $6.30 per 18-kilogram box in Costa Rica to $9.65 in the Windwards, which is the highest in the world (FLO 2013). These price differences play out in a retail market characterized by relentless competition. In both UK and US supermarkets, bananas operate as an important loss leader, with the shelf price kept low to attract shoppers in the expectation that they will purchase other items. Retail banana prices serve as a proxy for competition among chains and help to lure away competitors’ customers. In 2006, Walmart’s UK supermarket subsidiary Asda, which at the time stocked Chiquita bananas exclusively, initiated a retail price war that has continued on and off ever since. Other supermarkets quickly matched Asda’s banana prices, lowering prices to wholesalers, who passed on the price cuts to exporters and finally to producers themselves. By 2009 average retail prices for conventional bananas in the United Kingdom plunged more than 60 percent to 38 pence per kilogram (or 30 cents per pound), a price that industry


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observers claimed did not even cover their costs of transportation (Doward 2009). What was initially a promising market for fair-trade fruit fell victim to these trends and was further threatened by the worldwide Great Recession at decade’s end. Before Asda’s price war, fair-trade bananas retailed at the equivalent of $1.10 per pound, placing them at a huge disadvantage next to cheap Latin American fruit (Doward 2009). In 2005, one of Britain’s largest chains, Sainsbury’s, faced a public-relations crisis when information emerged about the abusive treatment of workers among its Latin American banana suppliers, some of whom relied on paramilitary forces to threaten and kill union organizers. To regain public trust, the supermarket reached an internal decision in late 2006 to stock exclusively fair-trade bananas. When Waitrose executives learned of Sainsbury’s plans through a company leak, the chain issued an immediate press release that it would stock only fair-trade bananas, beating out Sainsbury’s announcement by just a few days (Doward 2009). Sainsbury’s and Waitrose’s sparring for the mantle of corporate responsibility through fair trade was not easily reconciled with the ongoing price war. Seeking to regain momentum from its competitors, Sainsbury’s announced that it would sell fair-trade fruit at the same price as conventional bananas at other major retailers. In a retail market where even conventional bananas generate little or no profit, this decision implied a significant potential loss. Sainsbury’s premised its policy on new sources of comparatively cheap bananas from Colombia that nonetheless fulfilled all FLO’s fair-trade criteria. This created conditions for a price war within fair trade itself. Waitrose soon followed suit and began selling Colombian fair-trade bananas at about half the price of other fair-trade fruit. These differentials have persisted ever since: in early 2016, South American fair-trade bananas sold at UK supermarkets for about half the price of comparable Windwards fruit (Waitrose 2016). This newly price-differentiated fair-trade market has created a huge challenge for Caribbean farmers. At the outset, when virtually all fair-trade fruit sold in the United Kingdom had originated in the Windwards, shoppers were exhorted to select fair trade as an act of solidarity with the former British West Indies in their battle with Chiquita and the US government before the WTO (Moberg 2005, 10). Fifteen years later, the anger over the WTO decision that once roiled fair-trade websites and promotional campaigns in Britain has noticeably cooled. Since the certification of numerous Central and South American producers, the beaming faces of fair-trade farmers featured on FLO and supermarket websites are now rarely those of Caribbean people. FLO’s current spokesperson for its fair-trade banana campaign in the United Kingdom is Alfonso “Foncho” Cantillo, a Colombian farmer who beckons visitors to FLO’s website to


learn more about the growing of fair-trade bananas in South America (Fairtrade Foundation 2014). Shoppers are encouraged to “stick with Foncho” in selecting fair-trade bananas, and even invited to wear buttons bearing his likeness when entering the supermarket. If fair-trade bananas are largely interchangeable in terms of social and environmental standards, as current promotional campaigns imply, Caribbean producers now find themselves at a distinct disadvantage. As the Great Recession dampened consumer demand in Britain, some otherwise sympathetic shoppers selected cheaper conventional fruit instead of fair trade. FLO’s global sales from the depths of the recession attest to these downward trends. Among consumers who remained with fair trade, many naturally asked why they should pay such a high price for Windwards fruit ostensibly produced under conditions identical to those of less costly but equally “fair” bananas from Colombia and Ecuador. Having barely survived the WTO ruling, the remaining Windwards growers were again buffeted by competition from lower-cost adversaries—this time by other farmers who, like themselves, produced certified fair-trade fruit.

Market’s end: Social premiums in the Great Recession Because FLO mandates a minimum fair-trade producer price, WINFRESH is limited in its ability to pass lower margins from supermarkets onto Caribbean growers. Because of competition with cheaper fair-trade fruit from South America, however, FLO’s minimum for the Windward Islands has remained unchanged since 2006. Since then fertilizer and other input costs have risen about 70 percent on Dominica, partly because of import duties imposed under structural adjustment. Even local fair-trade officials now regard FLO’s guarantee that its prices cover production costs to be a fiction. As indicated by COSP data gathered by island NFTOs, every box of Windwards fair-trade bananas in 2014 signified a loss of more than US $3 for the average farmer (see Table 1). From 2004 to 2012, all the islands witnessed declines in exports, but the drop in Dominica (from 16,100 to 2,300 tons, or 86 percent) was the deepest in the region (FAO 2013, 17). For both the region as a whole and for Dominica, fair-trade exports declined nearly each year since the onset of the supermarket price wars. Findings from ethnographic and survey research in 2004 and 2010 in banana-producing communities illustrate the changing fortunes of fair-trade growers in a market wracked by price wars and recession. I collected the data presented here in the course of field research spanning a decade among banana farmers in St. Lucia (2000, 2002, and 2004) and Dominica (2004, 2010).12 Eighty-eight fair-trade farmers in Dominica’s St. Andrew parish were surveyed in 2010 with an instrument similar to that administered

Market’s end

Table 1. Costs and income per 18.14-kilogram box of fair-trade bananas, Windward Islands (US dollars) Costs Soil preparation and planting Field work, including weeding and disease control Harvesting and packing costs (labor and materials) Certification and organizational costs Total production costs

.511 9.13 1.87 .72 12.24

Income Fair-trade minimum price for 2011 Net return to farmer

9.13 −3.11

Source: WINFA COSP calculations, adapted from Farquhar 2012.

six years earlier among 58 fair-trade growers in St. Lucia’s Mabouya Valley.13 In all socioeconomic and demographic respects, the two regions are nearly indistinguishable. The land area cultivated per farmer in St. Andrew is virtually identical to that in the Mabouya Valley (1.86 vs. 1.91 hectares; t-statistic not significant at p < .05). The areas are also similar in terms of topography, access to roads, and the age and household composition of their residents. The surveys could not be considered a panel study in the strict sense, since they drew data from different individuals in 2004 and 2010. Yet the comparison of two otherwise identical farming communities broadly illustrates regionwide trends in fair-trade banana production over the decade. These survey data complemented extended semistructured interviews that I conducted with 36 farmers and their families in 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2010, and 73 other participants in the fair-trade movement and banana industry, including supermarket and WINFRESH representatives in the United Kingdom in 2003. Analyses of the 2004 and 2010 surveys and interviews reveal a precipitous deterioration in residents’ ability to survive solely on returns from fair-trade sales (see Table 2). The period from 2004 to 2010 registered a dramatic decline in banana production, with the average size of biweekly harvests falling from 83 boxes per farm to 60. Farm incomes plummeted by 59 percent as a result of declining production and rising production costs. Unlike 2004, when most (59 percent) fair-trade households lived entirely from their farm incomes, that number declined to 11 percent by 2010. Twenty-three percent reported that their farms operated at a loss and had to be subsidized with off-farm income by the farmer or another household member. By 2010 nearly half the banana farms in St. Andrew parish were abandoned, most of them within the previous two years. Fields filled with chest-high weeds and collapsing packing sheds attested to a widespread withdrawal from agriculture. Rising costs, an unprecedented drought, and outbreaks of yellow and black sigatoka fungi (Mycosphaerella musicola and M. fijiensis, respectively) conspired to force growers out of production. What appeared on the surface as “natural” disasters were exacerbated by structural-adjustment and fair-trade protocols

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that were ill suited to local conditions. Farmers complained that they could obtain the chemicals for disease control only from government-run depots, but these were inadequately stocked and often closed because of budget cuts. Underuse of fertilizer because of prohibitive import duties left banana plants less resistant to environmental stress, and hence more susceptible to infection. Fair-trade mandates that made weed and disease control much more difficult also contributed to the spread of disease, a complaint that farmers had voiced for years. In 2001, FLO directed that farmers replace chemical herbicides with mechanical clearing of their farms, tasks requiring either hand-weeding by cutlass (machete) or the use of gasolinepowered weed cutters(FLO 2009b). Both methods, however, contributed to the growth of a noxious weed (Comelina elegans, locally known as zeb gwa or water grass) that propagated itself when severed stems set out new roots. The increased ground cover from poor weed control further encouraged the spread of fungal diseases. Finally, water grass served as a host species for nematodes, minute parasitic worms that thrived on the roots and corms of banana plants after chemicals were banned. Nematode-weakened plants were the first to fall victim to sigatoka. Despite having promoted procedures that spread disease, FLO is nonetheless not particularly sympathetic to the plight of affected farmers. When field officers detect as much as a single leaf with sigatoka, the entire farm is quarantined until later reinspection proves it disease-free. At one point in late 2009, nearly one-quarter of Dominica’s farms lay idle as a result of quarantine.14 By the following year, the number of active Dominican fair-trade growers had fallen to about 280 compared to about 1,000 six years earlier (NFTO 2010). As farmers left production, local fair-trade farmers’ groups consolidated or disbanded altogether: in 2010, 13 groups remained on the island, down from 18 five years earlier. On this dwindling productive base, island governments have pinned many of their hopes for community development on social premiums. Theoretically, any member of a fair-trade farmers’ group may propose projects to be funded with premiums, and proposals are voted on by the membership at large. Among the first purchases were equipment required to comply with certification, primarily the unwieldy and trouble-prone weed cutters that FLO endorses in place of chemicals. Much more commonly, premiums have been used to purchase equipment for schools and health centers, improve roads, construct sports fields, and offer training or scholarships for youth. The allocation of most premiums for nonagricultural purposes reflects a requirement on the part of FLO rather than unprompted altruism on the part of farmers. Most projects originate when elected officials, school principals, or clinic directors approach the leaders of local farmers’ groups with a funding request. They in turn


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Table 2. Economic characteristics of fair-trade banana farmers, 2004 and 2010 (US dollars) Year



Std. deviation

Annual nonfarm income

2004 2010

58 86

$813.6 $1,300.3*

2,870.4 2,364.6

Number of paid nonharvest workers

2004 2010

58 83

2.8* 1.9

1.0 1.2

Wages paid fortnightly

2004 2010

58 87

$156.3* $123.2

123.3 118.4

Net earnings from most recent harvest

2004 2010

57 84

$294.6* $118.7

206.8 152.4

Number of boxes in most recent shipment

2004 2010

58 88

82.7* 59.6

51.4 51.4

*T-statistic significant at p < .05 Source: Author’s survey data from the Mabouya Valley, St. Lucia, 2004, and Calibishie, Dominica, 2010.

present such proposals to the general membership, which, in theory, is to debate and vote on them. But critical discussion over proposals presented by group leaders rarely arises during membership meetings. No fair-trade members interviewed in 2010 could recall instances in which officers’ suggestions were voted down, although some decisions engendered grumbling in private. Some members attributed their own reticence to the greater educational levels of fairtrade leaders or their more fluent command of Standard English.15 Others mentioned the comparatively privileged positions that leaders occupy in the surrounding communities. One group president in St. Andrew also owns a large shop and operates one of the parish’s only gas stations. Considering that most residents rely on store credit, especially to keep their farm vehicles running, poorer farmers are not surprisingly reluctant to challenge his recommendations in meetings. Rank-and-file farmers admit to a double bind when electing officers to lead their groups. They prefer representatives who can effectively deal with outside authorities (both governmental and fair-trade) on the group’s behalf, especially those who can effectively articulate the environmental and social values associated with fair trade. These expectations almost always limit leadership positions to members with considerable social capital in the form of education and connections. Yet they freely admit that leaders’ interests do not always coincide with their own. Gender also plays a role in decision-making: nearly half (48 percent) of the fair-trade farmers in St. Andrew parish are women, but only two of 14 officers (both secretaries of their respective groups) are female, a pattern observed throughout the Windwards. Fair-trade farmer Helene Romain opined that few women have sought leadership positions other than secretary because “men won’t have them.” Facing traditional expectations in the domestic realm, where the partners of female farmers still expect them to perform most cooking and child care, few women


have time for the additional demands of leadership. Fewer still are involved in proposing social-premium initiatives. Romain laughed when recalling the project mentioned at the beginning of this article: Even if a woman have a good idea, you know it going to be a man who claim credit for it. Most of the ideas come from the village president or the principal teacher of the school. I do know a teacher, a friend—a female—at the Morne Baptiste school who suggest an idea for a greenhouse to her principal, and he propose it to their fair-trade group. Now, who you suppose claim the credit when they fund it? He said this was going to be a great project. It was going to get children back to the land and help their families grow vegetables for the table. But now the greenhouse gone down because some of the equipment bruk up [broke down], and they can’t get the children to maintain it when they’re not at school. So who you suppose receive the blame? Hmmm? Not the principal—it was the very same woman he assign to run the project. These class, gender, and educational differentials inhibit open debate, much less overt challenges, to officers’ proposals. As one farmer described the aftermath of an unpopular decision, It would seem that the executives meet, and I would imagine that the executives get various requests from time to time. They come together and take a decision, and formulate ideas. OK, we have $30,000. We can do this: we can give the village council five [$5,000], spend ten [$10,000] on the road, give to this request. But after the meeting, people say, eh, that social premium could give us fertilizer for our farms, it could buy this, could buy that. So sometimes I say, “Well, that’s a good idea. Why didn’t you say so during the meeting?” And some of them will say, “Well, I don’t want to go against the president on such-and-such because, you know, I owe him money or my son works on his farm, and such.” So

Market’s end

you can’t have democracy when some people, the ones who take the decisions, have more power. The scenario described by Prime Minister Skerrit, in which the rural poor themselves craft development projects (i.e., “somebody who is an illiterate . . . contributes to a decision”), figures prominently in all levels of fair-trade advocacy, from the promotional material of FLO down to local leaders. In practice it was never observed when proposals were offered during the course of this research. “Suggestions” about how to spend premiums in the surrounding community usually originate from officials in local government, schools, or medical centers who are responsible for issuing licenses and tax assessments and ensuring the educational success and health of family members. Such influence is crucial for many leaders of farmers’ groups who, as small-business owners on the side, regularly seek favors from local officials for construction permits or import licenses. All these conspire to prevent the kind of vigorous debate and grassroots engagement that FLO envisioned when it created the social-premium system. As the industry’s crisis deepens and farmers’ needs for fertilizer and inputs go unmet, many have come to question the fairness of a model of community development that shifts the burden for social services from the state to private producers. In 2007 the Calibishie Fair Trade Group in St. Andrew spent nearly all its premiums that year (equivalent to $19,000) on a bus to ferry children to the local school. While no one disputed that the bus filled a previously unmet need, rank-and-file farmers grumbled that they had shouldered a responsibility that should properly belong to government. As one explained, Certain projects, like fixing up roads and such—that should be what government does, because we’re paying taxes. Roads and streetlights, that should be government’s job, not fair trade’s. Why should the farmer be spending money on things that don’t benefit him? Especially if he can’t even buy fertilizer for his farm. By 2010, as net returns from fair trade slipped below the break-even point for many farmers, most came to resent FLO’s mandate to direct earnings from their labor to services for nonfarmers. The profound class and cultural separation between town and country in the Windwards remains no less pronounced today than two generations ago, when the Caribbean’s leading social historian satirized a division between the “barefoot, uneducated, unsophisticated, shy people in the out-districts [who] looked up with awe . . . to the well-dressed, well-spoken, and better read city folk” (Lewis 1968, 150–1). Social premiums cannot bridge a long-standing cultural divide in which townspeople equate farming with archaic attitudes and ignorance, in contrast to the glamorous images of modernity now projected by satellite television and smartphones.

American Ethnologist

Calibishie farmer Calvin George spoke indignantly of such attitudes among town residents who benefit from social premiums, even while they disdain those who produce them: A lot of town people, especially the younger men and these boys, they look down on farmers. They don’t like to get their hands dirty. They rather be out on the street making mischief than working the land. When we pass [them] on the way to farm, they sometimes laugh and call us country bookies [hicks]. But then they turn round and play football on the same very field our premiums paid for! I think to myself, hypocrites! Why should we farmers be doing things for people who disrespect us? Such complaints have grown as the premiums returned to the islands have dwindled, leading to intense competition over what remains. Dominica’s banana farmers generated $1,254,343 in premiums during 2005, a year of peak fair-trade exports. With farmers abandoning production because of rising costs and disease, export volumes and social premiums declined in tandem (see Table 3). By 2009, Dominica earned only $313,271 in social premiums, falling to just half that level in 2010.16 As the funds available for feeder roads or input subsidies dry up, farmers cast an envious eye on the lion’s share that FLO requires them to spend on nonfarming projects. That their efforts sustain such initiatives strikes many as deeply unfair, as Rayfeen Simon, a Dominican farmer explained: From that $1.75 [social premium], the farmer get just 35 cents from it. And then you have the people suffering. You won’t help me, but you will help to buy bus, help to buy bus stop, help to build road, help to buy fridge for the health center and the people who are giving you money they get nothing from it. You can do all these things, but you can’t help me? They say that fair trade, but that not fair. That is unjust trade. Such resentments highlight one of the most “awkward” of fair trade’s “zones of engagement”: the premise of a seamless relationship between farmers and surrounding communities. Fair-trade advocates anticipate that the rewards of ethical consumption will be democratically and voluntarily shared among those who earn them and others not involved in their production. But there is little precedent in Caribbean rural life for mutuality between town and country and no inclination for farmers to share in this way apart from the compulsions of FLO certification to do so. Similar contradictions between the master narratives of development planning and realities on the ground have long been a mainstay of the anthropology of development (e.g., Escobar 1995; Ferguson 1994; Mosse 2005; Tsing 2005). What makes this case instructive is that fair trade embraces assumptions about development


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Table 3. Fair-trade social premiums generated by Dominica by year (US dollars) 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012

$8,149 (First fair-trade farmers certified) $62,168 $99,334 $84,498 $973,967 (All Dominican growers fair-trade certified) $1,253,430 (Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tesco stock only fair-trade bananas) $514,691 (Retail price war. Premium reduced to $1 per box) $294,383 (Hurricane Dean disrupts production on most farms) $368,283 (Yellow sigatoka, or leafspot disease; farms quarantined) $313,030 (Drought/black sigatoka) $117,780 (All premiums allocated to WINFA and NFTO) $123,700 $121,220

Source: Adapted from NFTO 2010 and FAO 2013.

processes (democracy, equity, and embeddedness) that are often upheld as alternatives to hierarchical policy making. The case finds parallels elsewhere, raising broader questions about development alternatives that remain wedded to a market framework. In her work among Indonesian farmers entering the global cacao market, Tania Murray Li (2014) contrasts the utopian narratives of social-movement activists and development planners who regard indigenous communities as environmental stewards with the actual plight of community members dispossessed by this agrarian transition. Her metaphor of “land’s end” evokes the dearth of alternatives for the poorest of the rural poor, now stranded by a privatized commons, closed agricultural frontiers, and lack of wage opportunities. In the transition to cacao, a community where everyone once had enough to survive is now divided between those with plentiful land and those with none at all. Here, in Karl Polanyi’s (1958) terms, there is no “counter-movement” to redeem and shield the poor from the market’s individualizing logic. Li warns that if social movements “don’t recognize the insidious ways in which capitalist relations take hold even in unlikely places, they can’t be effective in promoting alternatives that will actually work” (2014, 4). In analogous fashion, fair-trade advocacy and policy do not change the workings of the global markets in which farmers participate, much less create the radical alternatives envisioned in the movement’s early years (Moberg 2014). For those who have grown disillusioned with the demands that fair trade makes on them and its increasingly elusive benefits, and who have now run out of alternatives, fair trade has become the market’s end.

Conclusion: Policy and paradox in fair trade The Caribbean’s drought of 2009–10 finally broke, but during 2011 and 2012 uncontrolled disease still plagued


Dominica’s banana farms. As the Great Recession and retail price wars pushed consumers toward conventional bananas and cheaper fair-trade alternatives, Caribbean farmers found little incentive to increase export production. What social premiums they generated after 2011 have been used primarily to underwrite the island’s National Fair Trade Organization. Not unlike the island BGAs, whose mission shifted from representing to regulating farmers following state seizure (Moberg 2008, 37–40), the NFTO now operates as an arm of fair-trade monitoring. Ironically, then, the major remaining function of social premiums is to underwrite the very auditing and regulation that farmers find so onerous. Of the four Windwards, only St. Lucia continued to return social premiums to farmers’ groups for investment, and these amounted to just one-fifth their 2005 level.17 Grenada, meanwhile, has dropped out of banana production entirely. As the region becomes marginalized in the global banana trade, island farmers with Internet access are shocked to learn that they have been eclipsed in fair trade’s promotional efforts, which now focus on growers of cheaper Colombian fruit. Fair-trade bananas were first promoted in the United Kingdom to secure Windwards farmers a toehold in a deregulated market and insulate them from a global “race to the bottom” in producer prices. Yet production costs and conditions are highly heterogeneous among small-scale growers globally, creating competition between producers in different agricultural zones and labor markets. In promulgating a uniform code of practices, certification elides diverse production systems with a single standard and logo. If, as the FLO logo promises, all fairtrade fruit “delivers a better deal to producers,” it takes an extraordinary act of commitment for shoppers to select much more expensive Windward Island bananas over South American fruit certified as its social and environmental equivalent. Such conundrums are hardly limited to high-cost Caribbean banana producers. Farmers and artisans throughout the Global South vie for access to the coveted niches in “ethical” markets, so that “grassroots actors . . . compete with one another: they leverage unequal, asymmetrical power, and they compete for political support, control over resources, and discursive space in the construction of putatively ‘collective’ visions and practices” (Fisher 2013, 532). Notwithstanding their shared discourses of economic justice, fair-trade producers are not immune from a market logic that renders them mutual adversaries. Many, encountering the market’s end, will have exhausted this last “development alternative” available to them under neoliberal capitalism. The decline in social premiums and attendant spending on community needs highlights a jarring contradiction in a model of development tied to returns from export markets, a contradiction that Karl Marx himself might have predicted. In answering Marx, the Keynesian paradigm of

Market’s end

economic planning that dominated postwar capitalism until the 1970s entailed a central role for state regulation and investment in promoting development and containing crises. When regulation failed to prevent market failures, states stepped in with public spending to ensure that a minimum of social needs were satisfied. Social premiums tied to export sales invert this formula in ways that are unhelpful at best and perverse at worst. When production falls because of disease, drought, and lower prices, farmers’ incomes sustain fewer purchases in surrounding communities and support fewer farmworkers. Yet it is precisely during these times of greatest need that social premiums to farming communities decline in tandem with production. The result is not countercyclical, as foreseen in Keynesian theory, but one that amplifies the local impact of economic crisis. If sports fields and job training were established throughout the Windwards with social premiums during expansionary periods to provide opportunities for unemployed youth, what would happen to their intended beneficiaries during bad times when there are few or no social premiums and needs are greatest? The soaring crime statistics, from armed robbery to drug trafficking and murder, registered throughout the islands following the WTO ruling surely hold an answer to this question (Moberg 2008, 3–4). As many anthropologists and others have documented, a profound gap divides the promises of fair-trade advocacy and how farmers themselves experience fair trade on the ground, where environmental and production criteria drafted in the developed North often prove to be rigid and inappropriate (Moberg and Lyon 2010; Renard 2005). Similarly, fair trade’s laudable goals of social inclusion, gender equality, and democratic decision-making are often not realized in practice (Besky 2013; Mutersbaugh and Lyon 2010; B. Wilson 2013). These paradoxes are hardly unique to fair trade but reflect a common tendency of (often-utopian) schemes to impose inflexible new rules without the benefit of local knowledge across diverse communities and ecosystems (Scott 1998). Because certification standards are designed in the countries of the developed North but are imposed in widely varying local contexts, they are invariably ill suited to some aspects of local culture and material practice. This “awkward encounter” (Tsing 2005, xi) between local norms and those imposed from above manifests itself in different ways in different local contexts. Drawing on the metaphors of “friction” and “land’s end,” the analysis I have presented maps the particular conjunction of processes and relationships that shape people’s experience of economic change in a particular time and place. Fair trade grew out of and in response to largescale political-economic processes that privilege producers’ access to global markets (including markets that are

American Ethnologist

themselves privileged by virtue of price). As a system of governance in Foucauldian terms, it invokes universal narratives rooted in Enlightenment values of democracy and pluralism. Its effects at the local level, however, are expressed almost entirely through local dispositions, whether of ecology, gender, social position, or material practice. Where fair trade’s expectations of participatory democracy and gender equality genuinely take root in producers’ groups, it is usually when local precedents for them already exist. Otherwise they are perfunctorily performed in scripted fashion, mainly in the presence of visiting dignitaries from the developed countries (Lyon 2010). As Tsing observes, local leaders and aspiring NGO bureaucrats in marginal, impoverished places quickly learn to craft “their stories to match middle-class dreams—and in the process, further their own leadership strategies” (2005, 102). The process by which Windwards farmers access the benefits of fair trade is no different. In Dominica, as in other places and commodity systems, sharp disparities exist between local fair-trade leaders and rank-and-file farmers in terms of education and class position, often corresponding to their ability to “correctly” articulate the values expected of fair trade by powerful nonlocal gatekeepers (P. Wilson 2010). Leaders thereby wield an outsize influence in proposing uses for social premiums. Yet they are also subject to influence from even better-positioned individuals from outside their groups with whom they must maintain productive political and economic relationships. In most instances, it is the village “elites” (however modest they may seem to the outsider) of civil servants, educators, and clinic directors rather than farmers themselves who determine how social premiums are used. None of this diminishes the tangible benefits that social premiums have delivered to rural communities on Dominica and, to a lesser extent, farmers themselves. Athletic fields, street lighting, and hospital equipment have addressed needs that would otherwise go unmet. FLO’s criteria for premium use are observed in practice (to the admitted chagrin of many farmers), and expenditures are closely audited at several levels. This begs the question, of course, of who drafts such criteria and for whose purposes they are audited. As a development strategy, social premiums have not insulated Caribbean farmers from a volatile market whose workings are still dictated by corporations such as Chiquita and the foreign retailers who once pledged to be their allies. Instead, they find themselves subject to new vagaries no less threatening to their sustainability than the dismantling of a once-protected market. The ultimate irony of their current circumstances is that their greatest competitors are now other “ethical” small farmers, and that fair trade’s promised contributions to development have evaporated precisely when they are most needed.


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Notes Acknowledgments. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (grants BCS-0003965 and BCS-0850267), the Wenner-Gren Foundation (grant 7971), and the University of South Alabama College of Arts and Sciences. The Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute provided a welcoming institutional home during research on St. Lucia and Dominica. Lucien Charles, Merlica Charles, Tessa Glasgow, and Cornelius Lynch offered invaluable assistance with ethnographic interviews. Thanks to Laurence Camille for her careful Kw´ey`ol translation of the abstract. I remain solely responsible for the views expressed here, which are not those of funding agencies or sponsors. I thank the anonymous reviewers of AE and editors-in-chief Niko Besnier and Angelique Haugerud for their insightful comments and suggestions on previous versions of this article. 1. All participants’ and local organizations’ names in this article are pseudonyms, but public figures and national or international organizations are identified by name. 2. Eastern Caribbean dollars. EC$11,000 equals US$2,973. Unless indicated, all other figures are given in US dollars. 3. Since the waning days of colonialism, islanders have barricaded roads as a means of pressing their political demands, often leading to clashes with security forces (Slocum 2006, 170–81). This practice continues on Dominica in response to local grievances from budget cuts. 4. The ICA regulated global coffee supplies to provide a price floor that covered most production costs. It collapsed in 1989 after the US delegation to the ICA insisted on free-market reforms. 5. The government became concerned about a potential United Fruit retail monopoly after the company purchased a controlling interest in Fyffes, then the largest British banana importer. 6. Arguing that it denied it free access to the UK market, Chiquita had long opposed Britain’s tariff quota (Josling and Taylor 2003; Nurse and Sandiford 1995). Chiquita’s campaign contributions in the 1996 presidential election likely influenced the Clinton administration’s decision to file the WTO suit (Moberg 2008, 82–85). 7. The most recent precedents for local collective action were the BGAs that operated in the early years of the banana industry, but they came under the control of island governments seeking to quell grower activism during the 1960s. 8. Rosamund Edwards, personal communication, Roseau, Dominica, July 7, 2004. 9. Until then, social premiums were $1.75 a box. 10. Since the decline in banana production in the 1990s, Dominica has experienced the highest rate of emigration in the English-speaking Caribbean. 11. Since 2012, FLO’s sales statistics registered further declines because of a split between FLO and its US affiliate, Fair Trade USA (Moberg 2015), creating a separate US-based certification regime. 12. In 2004 four local research assistants and I conducted a survey of 58 fair-trade and 75 conventional farmers based in St. Lucia’s Mabouya Valley. The 2004 research team interviewed farmers as they waited to sell fruit at the nearest WINFRESH buying depot. Administered in the informant’s choice of Kw´ey`ol or English, the 2004 survey elicited information on household composition, land tenure, monthly gross earnings from banana sales, monthly input and labor expenses, and experiences with fair trade. Upon returning to Dominica in 2010, I recruited three research assistants to administer a similar survey to farmers (n = 88) at their farms or homes. Reflecting the lesser prevalence of Kw´ey`ol in this area of Dominica, these surveys were conducted in English.


13. Dominica is divided into 10 parishes, which are electoral and administrative districts rather than units of church membership. 14. Arthur Massicot, personal communication, Calibishie, Dominica, June 2, 2010. 15. Both countries report literacy levels in excess of 90 percent (Smith 2010), but older rural residents have little formal education. St. Lucian farmers surveyed in 2004 reported 6.9 years of schooling on average, and Dominican farmers surveyed in 2010 had completed 6.3 years. 16. Amos Wiltshire, personal communication, Castle Bruce, Dominica, May 16, 2010. 17. Errol Emmanuel, personal communication (e-mail), Roseau, Dominica, September 27, 2013.

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Mark Moberg Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work University of South Alabama 5991 USA Drive N. Humanities Rm. 34 Mobile, AL 36688-0002 [email protected]

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