Tea, and increasingly coffee, is firmly entrenched in the British way of life, with more than 60 billion cups drunk each year in the UK. But a new poll reveals that not enough people are making the unconscious link between the food we buy and the millions of farmers in developing countries who grow it, often not earning enough to feed their own families.

New research published today shows that a quarter of Brits admit they never consider the farmers and workers who produce our daily cuppa, and almost two in ten people, 17%, have never thought about whether their food has been produced in exploitative conditions where producers don’t receive a fair deal for what they grow.

Smallholder farmers are responsible for providing the majority of the UK’s tea and coffee, yet 1 in 3 people in Kenya’s coffee and tea growing regions live in poverty; over 2 million children work in hazardous conditions in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana; and the average cocoa farmer in Côte d’Ivoire lives on less than 40p a day.

Yet nearly three quarters of respondents, 72%, say that they are aware of the positive change that buying ethically sourced goods can bring to communities in the developing world.

So this year, the Fairtrade Foundation’s 23rd annual campaign Fairtrade Fortnight (27 February – 12 March) will spread an urgent message to speak up on behalf of producers more loudly than ever.

That’s because 2017 will be one of the most uncertain years for generations when it comes to international trade. Following the vote for Brexit, the UK will need to renegotiate more than 50 international trade deals; and no one knows yet what this will mean for farmers and workers in poor countries.

Michael Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation said: “Fairtrade is bringing lasting change to the lives of 1.6m farmers and workers around the world and it’s wonderful to see Fairtrade bucking the market trend with strong growth and new commitments.  Yet too many companies still do not publish what they pay their producers. It’s time to really push the direct connection between the food we buy and their impact on farmers’ livelihoods. If people really knew, and thought about it, would they still make the same choices?”

The research backs this up. Once challenged to consider how purchasing power can count, a whopping 70% of Brits say they want to make sure that their food and drink is not produced in exploitative conditions and three quarters say they would now look for an ethically sourced product.

“When we reach for our everyday foods without necessarily questioning what lies behind them, seduced by nice packaging, or attractive products and brands, we may be unconsciously feeding exploitation”, Michael continued.

In a collaboration with advertising agency AMV BBDO, the Fairtrade Foundation has made a new short film entitled ‘Don’t Feed Exploitation’. When young children turn up on a couple’s doorstep with a food delivery, their reactions are caught on camera.

You can view the video here

Using the insight that people respond strongly to unfairness, the film brings the realities of exploited farmers home to each and every one of us, and shows how buying Fairtrade can make a direct difference. The film shows the condensed journey of our produce – from the beginning of the supply chain, where workers toil away in rough conditions, directly to the end of the journey, where we bring the produce into our homes.

“Imagine what could happen if we all put Fairtrade into our shopping baskets: that would be an incredible opportunity to reach more producers with even more impact, but it would also be a powerful signal to companies, and to government, that there are millions of people in this country who do not want their daily food to come at the cost of exploiting farmers,” Michael concluded.

The Fairtrade Foundation is encouraging people across the UK to support farmers by holding Fairtrade breaks in their community, sharing stories of farmers who are benefiting from getting a fairer deal, buying Fairtrade products and sharing the film using the #ChooseFairtrade.

Dropbox link to images here 


For more information, interviews or images, contact Martine Parry on 020 7440 7695 / 07886 301486 or

Notes to Editors

Farmers get a better deal when they sell their crops on Fairtrade terms. This leads to a better and more stable income, and can help them break the cycle of poverty they are trapped in. Through Fairtrade, farmers can make sure their children are fed and can go to school. They can invest in better farming and earn more money for their crops. Communities can invest in clean water and clinics, improving everyone’s health.

The UK is the leading market for Fairtrade and the Fairtrade Foundation works with more than 400 companies, including many that have made significant commitments to Fairtrade, like the Co-op, Greggs, M&S,  Sainsbury’s and  Waitrose.

The dictionary definition of exploitation is: The action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work. Not paying enough to the farmers behind the goods we rely on is exploitative.

Research findings

The poll was carried out by Atomic Research and surveyed 2,000 British adults.

• Nearly a quarter (23%) of adults never think about who produces their food and drink

• More than twice as many UK adults (23%) never think about who produces their food and drink, compared to those who always do (10%)

• Nearly three quarters of respondents (72%) admit that they are aware of the impact that buying ethically sourced goods have on farmers and communities in the developing world

• Nearly 2 in 10 (17%) have never thought about whether their food and drink is produced in exploitative conditions

• When asked, just over seven in ten respondents (70%) are concerned with making sure that their food and drink is not produced in exploitative conditions

• After reading the statement about the low pay of African coffee and tea farmers, nearly three quarters (73%) would now look for an ethically sourced product

Despite being part of lucrative industries the people behind tea, coffee, cocoa are living in poverty:

• in Kenya’s coffee regions, 35% of people live in poverty and almost a third (27%) of children suffer from stunted growth caused by chronic undernutrition .

• Around 30% of households in Southern Malawi, the main tea growing region, live in poverty with 48% reporting inadequate food .

• In Cote D’Ivoire, which produces a third of the global supply of cocoa, 80% of the population live on just 40p per day.

• Amongst the largest coffee producing countries, many still have over 10 percent of their populations living below US$1.90 a day, which is below the World Bank extreme poverty line