As Fairtrade Fortnight 2015 gets underway (23 February – 8 March), sales figures released by the Fairtrade Foundation show that both the volume of food sales and the retail value of Fairtrade sales were impacted by the challenges affecting the mainstream grocery sector. The estimated retail value of sales of Fairtrade products were £1.67 billion in 2014, down 3.7% year-on-year.
Some Fairtrade products have performed well despite the current economic climate. Sales of bananas, which were the focus of the Fairtrade Foundation’s Make Bananas Fair campaign, grew 3% by volume, in part due to Tesco relisting a product line early in the year. Sales of coffee, the focus of Fairtrade’s Great British Fairness Debate campaign, increased 2% by volume, with Fairtrade switches by Tesco, Waitrose and Wild Bean Café, plus innovations such as Fairtrade coffee pods from brands including Cafédirect and Marks & Spencer, playing their part. Volumes of Fairtrade tea and Fairtrade cocoa sales fell slightly, by 1% and 2% respectively.
In non-food categories, the launch of Fairtrade roses in Aldi and increased Fairtrade flower sales in Asda, Sainsbury’s and the Co-operative, meant that 25 million more stems were sold in 2014, compared to 2013, boosting sales volumes of Fairtrade flowers by 30%.
“For the first time in our 20 year history, the traditional grocery market has been contracting, and the value of food spending is in decline. Given Fairtrade is increasingly part of this mainstream, it’s no surprise that these wider trends are having an impact on Fairtrade sales,” said Michael Gidney, Chief Executive at the Fairtrade Foundation. “Our main concern now is that increasingly aggressive competitive behaviour in the grocery sector could undermine the volumes farmers and workers are able to sell on Fairtrade terms, this will result in real losses to hard working families and communities in some of the poorest countries in the world.”
To boost the volumes of commodities sold on Fairtrade terms and deliver greater benefits to farmers and workers, Fairtrade has developed a number of innovations to respond to continuing business interest in sourcing on Fairtrade terms, and embedding the values and principles of Fairtrade more deeply into supply chain strategies. These include Fairtrade Sourcing Programs for cocoa, sugar and cotton, which enable companies to source one or more commodities on Fairtrade terms, as an alternative to certifying and labelling finished products with the FAIRTRADE Mark.
Welcoming the new Fairtrade Sourcing Programs, Fortin Bley, a cocoa farmer from Cote d’Ivoire and President of the Fairtrade Africa Cocoa Network, said: “This is the breakthrough we have been looking for. The farmers I represent in Africa have been looking to sell more cocoa as Fairtrade for a long time.”
Last week, Mars became the first UK company to announce a commitment under the new Fairtrade Cocoa Sourcing Program, to source all cocoa for MARS® Bars sold in the UK and Ireland from Fairtrade certified sources by autumn 2015. Building on the Fairtrade certification of MALTESERS® in 2012, this will take total Fairtrade Premiums paid by Mars globally to Fairtrade cocoa cooperatives in West Africa to US$2m per year by 2016.
“Business appetite to collaborate with Fairtrade remains incredibly strong,” says Michael Gidney. “To have Mars leading the way with the first commitment to our Fairtrade Cocoa Sourcing Program, on such an iconic brand as MARS® Bars, is fantastic news both here in the UK and on the ground with cocoa cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire.” The move means that four of the UK’s top chocolate brands are now directly working with Fairtrade certification.
Waitrose has also announced that it is stepping up its Fairtrade relationship. A new sustainability partnership announced last week by Waitrose and the Fairtrade Foundation, the first of its kind for either organisation, is also expected to benefit producers in developing countries. The partnership establishes a new and collaborative way of working together, whereby Fairtrade and Waitrose will share best practice, experience and a joint ambition to build upon sustainable supply chain models.
At Waitrose, it will mean that as well as its wide and ever-growing range of Fairtrade-certified products, the work of the Waitrose Foundation will be verified by the Fairtrade Foundation – the first time the organisation will verify a third-party scheme. The Fairtrade Foundation will provide guidance to the Waitrose Foundation as it expands the trading model into countries and regions where it does not currently operate, but where Fairtrade has experience.
For some Fairtrade producers, access to the UK market looks set to become even more challenging in 2015. Today (23 February) the Fairtrade Foundation will also launch Sugar Crash, a report that highlights the crisis facing sugar cane farmers in developing countries because of an EU reform that will lift the cap on European beet sugar production. Fairtrade is calling for the EU to support these sugar cane farmers to increase their productivity, find new markets or diversify, and is calling on shoppers to continue buying Fairtrade cane sugar, which is already seeing a decline in sales as a result of the EU reform and fall in global prices in the last three years.
First held in 1995, this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight campaign turns the spotlight on the producers who grow some of our favourite everyday foods – including cocoa, sugar and tea – to show the difference that Fairtrade makes to their lives and why Fairtrade is urgently needed. A new short film ‘Fairtrade Matters’, which gives a glimpse into the life of a tea farmer and a tea worker in Malawi, will have a press premiere in London before being shown at hundreds of screenings across the UK organised by Fairtrade campaigners. Other highlights include cocoa farmers from the Dominican Republic and Belize, and sugar cane producers from Malawi and Jamaica, touring the country to meet with Fairtrade campaigners and the public, to share their stories and how Fairtrade makes a difference to their lives. Retailers and brands will also be supporting the campaign with in-store point of sale, Fairtrade promotions, and social media activity.
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Notes to Editors
The Fairtrade Foundation is an independent certification body which licenses the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on products which meet international Fairtrade standards. This independent consumer label appears on products to show that disadvantaged producers are getting a better deal from trade. Today, more than 1.5 million people – farmers and workers – across more than 74 developing countries benefit from the international Fairtrade system.
Over 5,000 products have been licensed to carry the FAIRTRADE Mark in the UK including coffee, tea, herbal teas, chocolate, cocoa, sugar, bananas, grapes, pineapples, mangoes, avocados, apples, pears, plums, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, satsumas, clementines, mandarins, lychees, dried fruit, juices, smoothies, biscuits, cakes & snacks, honey, jams & preserves, chutney, rice, quinoa, herbs & spices, seeds, nuts, wines, ales, rum, confectionery, muesli, cereal bars, ice-cream, flowers, sports balls, sugar body scrub and cotton products including clothing, homeware, cotton wool, olive oil, gold, silver and platinum.
Awareness of the FAIRTRADE Mark continues to be high in 2014, at a level of 78%.
 In order to estimate retail values, Fairtrade Foundation adds 43% to reported wholesale values for fresh produce and flowers (= 30% retail margin) and 67% to all other products (= 40% retail margin).