A more sustainable food system: Baroness Miller highlights alternative trade models

Baroness Miller spoke at the House of Lords debate on International Trade on January 23, where she called attention to models, including Fairtrade, which can help create a more sustainable food system.

 She said: ‘The food production system is highly vulnerable to weather-we have seen many examples of that this year-and to lack of natural resources, such as scarce water. We need to think about this and create other models of greater accountability to create a balance between a healthy trade that is bringing wealth to producers and their communities and the need of the world for food and resources.

‘There are models out there. I shall mention one today. There was a sustained fall in commodity prices in the second half of the 20th century, in which many prices halved, and the Fairtrade Foundation was born from that unhappy state of affairs. This year, it has been going in the UK for 20 years. It now has a turnover here of £1.5 billion, so it cannot be said to be a small, niche thing anymore. It has connected consumers meaningfully to producers in the developing world.

‘I welcome the Government’s support for it. DfID Ministers have recently been active in their support for the importance of Fairtrade. Fairtrade farmers have explained to us that one of the problems that multinationals produce for them is that they may buy large volumes one year but not the next, when they need stability for investment. Price volatility is a massive challenge. For example, the price of coffee virtually halved between 2011 and 2013. Price volatility is perhaps the biggest enemy of the smallholder farmer. Fairtrade tends to balance out these issues and make life much easier for the investment we need for future food production if we are to be sure of a food supply.’

The Fairtrade system ensures smallholder farmers receive a Fairtrade minimum price for their produce, even if the market value goes below that, plus a Fairtrade Premium – an extra amount spent by the community on improving farming practices, health, education and social projects.

The Fairtrade Foundation celebrates 20 years of the FAIRTRADE Mark in the UK in 2014. For media enquiries regarding the 20th anniversary, please contact the press office on 020 7440 7692 / media@fairtrade.org.uk