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Shoppers back Fairtrade

As Fairtade Fortnight kicks off, figures show shoppers are supporting Fairtrade
Shoppers_back_Fairtrade. Picture from MyGreenPod Sustainable News

Growth in four of the five main Fairtrade food categories – coffee, tea, bananas and cocoa – 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.

Growth in a turbulent market

The news comes at the beginning of Fairtade Fortnight (29 Feb-13 March).

This year, the theme for the Fortnight is ‘Sit Down for Breakfast, Stand up for Farmers’. It 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.

The following Fairtrade commodities saw strong volume growth in 2015:

Coffee: 12%
Tea: 3%
Bananas: 5%
Cocoa products: 6%
Flowers: 14%
Wine: 17%

‘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.’

Michael Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation

What it means

More than 88 million more Fairtrade bananas were eaten in 2015 compared with 2014. In total, we now munch our way through an average of 5 million Fairtrade bananas per day.

The nation’s love for Fairtrade coffee shows no signs of abating, with an estimated 255 million more cups drunk in 2015 compared with 2014. We also brewed an additional 184 million cups of Fairtrade tea in 2015 compared with 2014.

Around 126 million Fairtrade flowers were given to our loved ones (or ourselves!) in 2015 – that’s around 21 million half-dozen bouquets!

Fairtrade sugar

Not all Fairtrade products fared as well in 2015. In particular, changes in EU market regulations on sugar led to a collapse in the sales of cane sugar, as the Fairtrade Foundation had predicted in its 2015 report Sugar Crash.

Volumes of Fairtrade sugar declined by 36% in 2015 compared with 2014, spelling real challenges for the many thousands of small-scale cane growers dependent on cane exports to the EU.

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 overall market

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 with £1.7 billion 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, while the retail value remained steady with around 1% growth.

‘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.’

Michael Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation

Commitments from businesses

For 2016, the Fairtrade Foundation remains cautiously optimistic thanks to recent announcements from a range of businesses.

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.

Fairtrade Fortnight

Fairtrade Fortnight will see thousands of activities in local communities, shops, cafés, workplaces, schools and faith networks.

Farmer representatives from Colombia, India and Kenya will also be touring the UK to meet local businesses and members of the public, highlighting the impact of Fairtrade in their communities as well as the challenges they continue to face.

‘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.’

Kassu Eriba, member of Hafurissa cooperative, Yirgacheffe Farmers Cooperative Union

Click here to find out more about Fairtrade Fortnight and how you can get involved.

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