Statement in response to Oxfam’s Behind the Brand update

Tea bush

The Fairtrade Foundation welcomes Oxfam's new report stating the ‘Big 10’ food companies have all shown greater commitments in improving conditions for some of the farmers and workers who grow some of the staple ingredients behind some of our favourite products, but as the report suggests it is now time to test whether those business commitments are translating into real change for the farmers, workers and communities on the ground. 

The report notes new commitments on vital issues including climate change and land rights, but progress is weaker in other areas, such the rights of workers and women. Major obstacles to progress are the poor prices paid to farmers and workers, and the imbalance of power between farmers and big buyers. Though progress has been made it is not across the board, with tea growers in Kenya seeing a drop in prices of 30% and a recent report from Tulane University suggests a rise in child labour in West Africa.

Latest data shows a decreasing share being returned to many of the producers responsible for the commodities such as cocoa or coffee, yet in the UK the retail sector is caught in a spiralling price war on commodities that sees products like bananas or tea sold below the cost of production. To go from incremental changes to the transformational change needed to tackle poverty needs a radical rewriting of business models.

Fairtrade Foundation’s CEO Michael Gidney, who will be speaking at the report launch event on Wednesday in London, said;

“This report confirms many of the experiences of Fairtrade farmers, in that these big firms can have tremendous impact on the livelihoods of farmers, workers and families across the world. What may seem a small difference to us can transform a community and set it on a road out of poverty for good. Oxfam is right to highlight the increased commitment of these firms to improving the impacts of their supply chain, however now it’s time for firms to demonstrate the impacts of their commitments through increased programmes that deliver long lasting change.”