Shoppers Stand Behind Fairtrade Through Tough Grocery Market

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As thousands of people get ready to get behind Fairtrade Fortnight 2016 (Feb 29th– Mar 13th) positive volume  growth in four out of the five main Fairtrade food categories – coffee, tea, bananas and cocoa – all sent a strong signal that shoppers and businesses are still standing up for Fairtrade, despite the tough grocery market. There was also double digit growth in volumes of wine and flowers sold in 2015.  Sales of Fairtrade gold sourced from artisanal small-scale gold miners, although still quite small overall, still increased five-fold in 2015.

CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation Michael Gidney, said “These figures show that British shoppers remain committed to Fairtrade, despite the turbulence in the grocery market.  That’s good news for those businesses offering Fairtrade products.  We’re delighted to see increases in most of the categories for which Fairtrade is best known – this means more producers are getting a better deal for the food they grow for us”.

Commodities seeing strong volume growth were as follows:

Coffee                         12%

Tea                              3%

Bananas                     5%

Cocoa products        6%

Flowers                      14%

Wine                           17%

In real terms, the growth in volumes means that in 2015, the UK’s appetite for Fairtrade meant:

–       More than 88 million more Fairtrade bananas were eaten, compared to 2014. In total, we now munch our way through an average of 5 million Fairtrade bananas per day

–       The nation’s love affair for Fairtrade coffee showed no signs of abating, with an estimated 255 million more cups drunk in 2015 compared to 2014

–        Around 126 million Fairtrade flowers were given to our loved ones (or ourselves!) – that’s around 21 million half dozen bouquets!

–       We brewed an additional 184 million cups of Fairtrade tea in 2015, compared to 2014.

However, not all Fairtrade products fared as well in 2015. In particular, changes in EU market regulations on sugar were leading a collapse in sales of cane sugar said the Foundation, as it had warned  in its 2015  report Sugar Crash. Volumes of Fairtrade sugar declined by 36% in 2015, compared to 2014, spelling real challenges for the many thousands of small-scale cane growers dependent on cane exports to the EU for their livelihood.

The decline in the price of sugar in Europe has led to a shift away from cane towards domestic, subsidised beet sugar, delivering an effective triple whammy of reducing cane farmer’s livelihoods, reduced impacts for Fairtrade farming communities and much more cheaply available sugar at a time of national concern over obesity. Meanwhile sales of Fairtrade fresh and dried fruit and nuts also saw decline in 2015, as did Fairtrade cotton once again.

The Fairtrade Foundation’s initial estimates of the overall retail value of the UK Fairtrade market show a slight decline to around £1.6 billion in 2015, compared to £1.7m in 2014. However, if the collapse in the price and market for cane sugar is removed from the equation, overall Fairtrade sales grew by an average 4% in volume, whilst the retail value remained steady with around 1% growth, said Mike Gidney.   “Sales in many commodities remain strong for Fairtrade, yet the irony of the EU flooding the market in cheap sugar at a time of increased concern over obesity is surely lost on no-one, with the added risk of pushing 200,000 farmers in developing countries back into poverty”

For 2016, the Fairtrade Foundation remains cautiously optimistic, with recent announcements by a range of businesses to extending their commitments to buying on Fairtrade terms, including:

–       The Cooperative has committed to stocking Tate & Lyle’s Fairtrade sugars in addition to its own-label Fairtrade sugar – becoming the first to make its entire sugar range Fairtrade.

–       2016 will see the first full year of sales of Mars Bars sourced with Fairtrade cocoa, which first hit shop shelves only in the autumn of 2015.

Further business commitments are expected to be made during the Fortnight and later in the year.

The Fairtrade Foundation’s annual national campaign Fairtrade Fortnight kicks off on 29 February – 13 March, with the theme “Sit Down for Breakfast, Stand up for Farmers”, which highlights the continued levels of food insecurity experienced by millions of smallholder farmers and workers producing the foods that make their way to our tables every day.

Kassu Eriba, member of Hafurissa cooperative, Yirgacheffe Farmers Cooperative Union, called on the public to continue to purchase Fairtrade citing the real changes the support had delivered;

“Things have improved over the last four years. Before the union formed, the price we got for our coffee was very low and we struggled to survive. We couldn’t support ourselves properly before Fairtrade and life was very hard. We didn’t have electricity, we couldn’t send our children to school. Also the road was bad. Now that Fairtrade is supporting us, we see a very big change. Our life is getting better and better.
But you must buy more so that we can continue to improve our lives. We are producing coffee and selling it to the world but we don’t get much of the value of a cup of coffee, so please keep buying my Fairtrade beans.”

The Fortnight will see thousands of activities in local communities, shops, cafés, workplaces, schools and faith networks, whilst farmer representatives from Colombia, India and Kenya will be touring the UK meeting local businesses and members of the public, highlighting the impact of Fairtrade in their communities as well as the challenges they continue to face.

Rising to the challenges of the future, the Fairtrade Foundation’s new 2016-20 Strategy ‘Changing Trade, Changing Lives – Fairtrade Can, I Can’ will also be launched during the Fortnight. The strategy includes an ambition to drive transformative change in five focus commodity sectors (coffee, tea, cocoa, flowers and bananas) on issues such as improving income and delivery of living wages, as well as innovate together with businesses to deliver deeper impact through new partnership and programme approaches. The first of the partnerships, with the supermarket Waitrose, has already resulted in the establishment of a programme responding to a call from small scale coffee farmers in Brazil to support them in adapting to climate change, improving their crops, and fair prices for their coffee beans.