Fairtrade 30th Anniversary report urges farmer pay, environment and human rights action

The Fairtrade Foundation has renewed urgent calls to businesses and governments to help enhance farmer pay in key supply chains including the cocoa sector, as well as deliver progress on climate change, as core elements of its 30th anniversary report, writes Neill Barston.

Since the movement’s creation just over three decades ago, it has moved to support a wide range of agricultural workers around the world, including those working within key producing nations in West Africa at the heart of the confectionery sector through its premium payments to workers.

The foundation held an anniversary celebration last night in London, which marked three decades since the first products in its ranges, which began with Green & Black’s Maya Gold Chocolate, and has now expanded out to a total around 5,000 products in the UK alone.

Notably, as the organisation has revealed, volumes of UK retail sales volumes of Fairtrade cocoa sales volumes grew by 6% and tea by 5% in 2023. There was also growth in other categories: Fairtrade gold volumes rose by 25%, fresh vegetables by 15% and nuts and oil seeds by 12%. Consequently, revenues rose for the foundation last year, increasing by eleven percent to £13.4 million from £12.8 million in 2022.

Speaking in the organisation’s report, CEO Mike Gidney, the foundation’s CEO, commented on its three decades of supporting farmers across industries around the world.

He said: “Fairtrade’s focus from the start has been to tackle the causes of poverty and exploitation, not just the symptoms. Many of the major challenges in long, global supply chains – including child labour, gender-based exploitation and deforestation – are exacerbated by poverty and uneven negotiating power.

“That’s why Fairtrade has taken such a unique stand on the importance of price: still too often farmers around the world struggle with unsustainably low  prices.

He continued: “Unless producers earn a fair price that enables them to care for their families, farms and futures, these systemic problems will remain. A fair price changes everything. It can mean families able to afford food and clothing, and communities building schools and health facilities.

“It provides working capital for farmers to invest in stronger businesses, improving quality, productivity or adding value to their produce. Meanwhile, climate change is making fair prices even more urgent. Without the ability to invest in their farms, how can producers hope to mitigate the impact of global heating, and the risks to production and supply? Price matters, more than ever.”

As the foundation noted, its call to action from industry and government, as well as campaigners comes as farmers in a significant number of sectors face a series of major challenges, especially within the cocoa sector, which have included adverse weather conditions, and wider trading instability as cocoa prices have more than tripled on Futures commodities markets in less than a year.

Confectionery Production has reported that last month, the market reached a nominal value high of over $12,000 a tonne, before dramatically slipping back more than 30% to around $7,000, before returning to values near the $10,000 mark this month, demonstrating considerable price volatility.

But as Fairtrade has explained previously as a key supporter of our World Confectionery Conference, which returns to Brussels this September 12 it has engaged with cocoa farming communities through its continued action programmes, which include Fair trade premium prices.

Its outreach work also includes promoting access to educational opportunities for children, as well as engaging with devising agricultural best practices to boost farming productivity, to ensure sustainable production methods are promoted widely around the world.

Conditions within Ghana and Ivory Coast cocoa communities, which make up for around 70% of the cocoa sold to the confectionery trade are experiencing near unprecedented tests, against a backdrop of sustained poor harvests that have led to supply deficits in the global chain.

The situation has been impacted as the effects of deforestation continue to be witnessed, with Ivory Coast believed to have lost almost 90% of its forested areas since 1950, and Ghana around 65%, as a direct result of commercial agriculture, as well as illegal gold mining activity that has also proved a significant negative factor.

As the organisation noted, Fairtrade supports more than two million producers to achieve better prices for their produce, meaning that, when you include family members and dependents, an estimated 10 million people benefit from sales of Fairtrade terms.

The latest 30th anniversary report has examples of how livelihoods have been strengthened and lives transformed across the world since Fairtrade’s existence.

But as the movement, noted, the world is far more insecure than it was in the mid-1990s. Climate change, global conflicts, and the pandemic have heightened threats to farmers’ livelihoods whilst simultaneously exposing the fragility of our shared food system.

pic: Fairtrade

Its 30th anniversary study notes that the UK is food insecure, importing almost half its food and approximately 16 percent from countries which are exposed to climate change and lack the capacity to adapt and respond. Environmental shocks in one part of the world can lead to empty shelves and food price inflation in our supermarkets, exacerbating the cost of living.

Furthermore, as the foundation observed, extreme poverty and inequality in global agricultural communities, is made worse by the ongoing climate crisis and unfair trade prices. The vulnerability of farmers is also exacerbated by conflict in some parts of the world.

In addition, it asserted that there is an urgent need for immediate change, for the sake of producers’ livelihoods and for the availability and affordability of supermarket staples. The report highlights Fairtrade’s work to promote living incomes and wages to ensure that farmers and workers can cover essential living costs for themselves and their families.

Call on UK government
Crucially, the foundation called on whoever is set to win the next UK General Election which is set for 4 July, to commit to solidly supporting work backing farming operations around the world that are part of valuable supply chains for British consumers, as well as rebalancing trade injustices.

In addition, the report also acknowledges group efforts that have driven awareness, changed attitudes, and built a global movement for fair trade.

It extended its thanks to those businesses campaigners, businesses, advocates and the UK government for their contributions over 30 years.

Among its core pleas in its report, the organisation addressed the business community in requesting increased engagement with Fairtrade sourcing commitments, work together on innovative approaches to sourcing that will support sustainability.

The report also called on the government to address both environmental and human rights violations in supply chains – which is something that is now significantly on the EU legislative radar with the incoming EUDR regulations due at the end of this year – with countries including the UK not presently part of the scope of the measures designed to protect agricultural workers and promote transparency.

Mike Gidney, Fairtrade Foundation CEO, added: “Fairtrade is driven by a vision of a world where trade benefits both people and the planet.

“At the heart of Fairtrade’s ethos is a commitment to addressing the root causes of poverty and exploitation. By ensuring producers receive a fair price for their goods, Fairtrade enables them to invest in their families, communities, and futures. This investment is particularly crucial in the face of climate change, which poses additional challenges to agricultural livelihoods.

“Equally important is Fairtrade’s emphasis on equitable governance and representation. Producers are co-owners of the Fairtrade movement, ensuring their voices are heard at every level of decision-making. This sharing of power fosters a more resilient and inclusive supply chain, where dialogue and collaboration drive meaningful change.

“Looking ahead, we need to recognise the need for greater collaboration and urgency in addressing today’s complex challenges. By continuing to prioritise fair prices and equitable governance, we can build a future where trade truly works for everyone.”

 

 

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