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Why would a yogurt company from New Hampshire help fund a banana processing facility in the jungles of Costa Rica, and not have any ownership in it? For starters, our organic bananas are a little different. They’re a unique variety. And they’re grown in the jungle, under the forest canopy, instead of on large plantations. But most importantly, our bananas are grown and harvested by the farmer-members of an organic cooperative called APPTA, in the Talamanca region of Costa Rica. And we really want these folks to succeed.
It’s a challenging trip from the mountain forests where our bananas grow to the nearest 3rd-party processing plant. APPTA members often transport their crops on back, then by boat, and then by truck to get there. Even under the best conditions, the trip takes many hours. But sometimes the road washes out. Boats tip. Once the truck was hijacked and set on fire. And when the bananas reach their destination, the company that owns the plant may not have room to process the APPTA members’ fruit. In the end, up to 40% of the fruit is either lost on the journey or left to rot on the trees. Given the challenges of processing at such a remote facility, there’s little incentive for farmers to fully harvest available fruit or invest in their farms.
We saw an opportunity to make a huge difference for APPTA’s 1,200 members. Having their own processing facility could help our banana growers cut waste, improve efficiencies and stabilize their income. So Stonyfield and the Danone Ecosysteme Fund are helping, with a $923K grant for APPTA members to build a processing plant of their own, right at home. APPTA will own the plant. Not only will it make them more efficient in supplying the organic bananas we use, but we’re hopeful it will open up other opportunities for APPTA to sell their crops.
A shorter, more secure supply chain is just good business. And supporting the growers who sustainably grow and harvest organic crops, rather than relying on heavily-chemical growing methods, is central to our mission too.