Fair Trade Mangos to Support Emergency Relief for Peru

The weather is constantly changing in unpredictable ways, and the recent floods in Peru are a reminder of the drastic impact that these changes can have.

Peru has three distinct climatic zones: the tropical rainforest, the Andean Highlands, and the desert coast. Currently it is the rainy season for the highlands and the humid rainforest, so rain is expected in these regions. The coast seldom sees any rain at all – hence why it is as a desert coast. However, this arid region makes for great growing conditions for organic bananas and mangos among many other crops that are grown in Northern Peru.

Visiting BOS just two weeks ago, Randy and I were both amazed that it was even sprinkling for a few minutes when we arrived to Piura. I thought to myself, “that’s weird – it doesn’t rain here.”

However, La Niña definitely has a different opinion, and this past week the weather phenomenon brought extremely heavy rains to Peru’s desert coast and highlands that caused severe flooding affecting 80% of the country. Northern regions of Peru that normally receive, on average, 6-10 cm of rain a year, have seen up to 150 cm of precipitation in just a few days. Near Motupe (where one mango coop we work with - SOMFRUTAS is located), rain was recorded at 28 litres per square metre!

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Days of non-stop rain caused over 60 rivers to overflow, wiped out highways, and collapsed bridges all over the country. Although heavy rains hit all of Peru, the impact was felt the greatest in the Northern regions because they aren’t prepared to handle rain of this magnitude. With the extreme rising levels of the rivers, several regions had to open their dams.

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The impact has been disastrous on banana growing regions, ruining much of the remaining organic mango crop, and also damaging or destroying rice plantations and quinoa crops.  This is particularly important for organic mangos because they are significantly affected by rainfall and can’t be treated with fumigants.  

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Although the final damage of this natural disaster is yet to be assessed, it is estimated that over 1,500 hectares of rice and bananas have been destroyed, along with the 15,000 tons of mangos not harvested yet.  Our Fair Trade Banana supplier, BOS, has reported that nearly 50% of their crops have been damaged or left inaccessible by the floods. We still don't know yet how this has impacted ginger growers in the Junin province though, nor have we heard how this has affected avocado crops that are just starting harvest. 

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It breaks our hearts to know that these cooperatives, our valued suppliers, have been struck by the heaviest rainfall Peru has experienced in 50 years. Not only does this affect our imported products but this disaster has severely affected crops for local consumption. Public infrastructure has been destroyed, including hundreds of schools serving the families of mango, avocado, and banana farms whose product we sell. The tremendous damage caused by the floods will have severe, hard hitting, and long lasting effects on our growers who represent thousands of families who depend on these crops for their livelihood. They need our support right now and we need to do all that we can to help.

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Therefore, today we announced that we are going to be doing a “Mango Relief Campaign” with our retailers to raise funds as emergency relief for Peru. The campaign will be similar to the blueberry campaign that we did two years ago with our retailers that raised $37,800 to rebuild houses for blueberry producers that were destroyed by the Chilean earthquake.

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All the money raised through the Mango Relief Campaign will go through the Fair Trade system as social premiums, so that the cooperatives will decide how the money will be spent in their own communities. The Fair Trade system guarantees that the money is spent well and that its use is chosen democratically.

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Randy will be going back to Peru in March to update on how the money we hope to raise is being spent, to visit with the growers, and survey the damage. We know that we are not a big company with deep pockets, and neither are our retailers, but we are committed to making a meaningful and measurable difference.

Thank you for your support, and stay tuned for more updates.