Help agricultural workers overseas tackle Covid-19’s economic impacts, says Fairtrade, as inquiry warns of widespread job losses

The Fairtrade Foundation has backed the findings of a new parliamentary inquiry warning that for people in low-income countries, particularly agricultural communities, the economic harm caused by Covid-19 could prove more catastrophic than the direct impacts of the virus itself.

Published by the House of Commons’ International Development Committee (IDC) on Tuesday, the report – Covid-19 in developing countries: secondary impacts – examines ways in which the UK can help people in low-income nations to overcome the harmful side-effects of the pandemic, including hunger, debt and unemployment.

The report is the result of an inquiry held by the IDC, which heard evidence from a number of parties including the Fairtrade Foundation. It says agricultural workers are at particular risk of being affected by Covid-19’s secondary impacts, due to the likelihood of widespread job losses across low-income countries, as well as disruptions to international supply chains.

Responding to the IDC report, the Foundation has emphasised the need to support farmers and workers at the end of Britain’s supply chains to become resilient in the face of future shocks. This, it says, will not only enable them to recover from the pandemic and continue to earn a living, but will also support food security here in the UK.

Fairtrade Foundation’s Director of Impact, Dr Louisa Cox, who appeared before the Committee in November, said: ‘It was a privilege to give evidence to the inquiry and I welcome the Committee’s recommendations on how the UK can best support those in low-income countries to deal with the impacts of the pandemic.

‘The impact of the pandemic on the livelihoods of farmers and workers in low-income countries has been severe and widespread. We have seen flower farmers laid off work, and cocoa farmers, already among the lowest paid, struggling with food insecurity. These are the people that produce our much loved products, from chocolate, bananas to flowers. They need to be supported if they are to recover from the pandemic.’

The report recommends that the Government should fund long-term programmes, designed to support jobs and livelihoods – a proposal welcomed by the Fairtrade Foundation.

Dr Louisa Cox continued: ‘It is heartening to see the Committee pay particular attention to the needs of agricultural communities in its report. We welcome the Committee’s insistence on the need to protect jobs to prevent poverty deepening due to the COVID crisis.

‘Directly supporting those in insecure work at the bottom of our supply chain is vital to ensure that people can continue to earn a living during these challenging times. It also helps to ensure that we continue to see our supermarkets stocked with the products we love.

‘It is great that the Government is already supporting this kind of work, but more is now needed. The FCDO’s partnership with Fairtrade is providing crucial assistance for the livelihoods of farmers and workers in Ghana and Kenya, helping with immediate needs and laying the ground for recovery. However, we must now do more to meet the scale of the challenge.’

Find out more about the International Development Committee report here.


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