Wine is produced in over 50 countries around the world and is one of the world’s most well-known and popular beverages.
From once being a vehicle for discussion in Greek and Roman times, wine is today a social and cultural phenomenon.
Wine grape farming and wine-making are time-consuming industries, strenuous and labour-intensive. The demanding processes involved in the production of wine often lead to poor labour standards and living conditions for both small wine grape farmers and hired labourers on large plantations.
Fairtrade Standards are designed to improve employment conditions and protect the rights of workers on wine grape plantations and to support small wine grape farmers’ organisations in gaining more control within supply chains and increase their incomes. There are 48 Fairtrade wine producer organisations worldwide, across South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Tunisia and Lebanon.
South Africa is the largest producer of Fairtrade wine globally, with 28 producer organisations, and accounted for two-thirds of Fairtrade wine sales in 2013. Chile also produces a high proportion of Fairtrade wine, with 10 producer organisations in country. Both of these countries have been witness to unique economic, social and political challenges. .
The apartheid system in South Africa limited the opportunities for economic advancement of the majority of the population and left a legacy of poor employment conditions and labour relations in the wine industry. These problems include highly unequal land distribution and a history of paternalistic labour relations, rampant alcoholism among workers, low wages, inadequate housing and labour practices which often discriminate against women.
Chile has a long history of co-operatives in wine grape growing and wine making but many went bankrupt during the Pinochet regime. Many surviving farmers are located in areas of extreme poverty and struggle with low market prices that do not generate sufficient income to meet the needs of their families.
Fairtrade Standards include the Fairtrade Minimum Price that aims to cover small wine grape farmers’ costs of production. Fairtrade certified plantations must provide decent working conditions for workers and protect their rights in line with core International Labour Organization Conventions; including the right to join a trade union, a safe and healthy environment and no discrimination or child labour.
Both small farmers and workers on plantations also receive the Fairtrade Premium. Between 2011 and 2012, a total of £1.3 million Premium arose from the sale of Fairtrade wine. The Fairtrade Premium is invested, by farmers and plantation hired labourers, in improving farm practices, education, healthcare and training programmes that benefit their families and communities. Read about how Fairtrade wine from Stellenrust in South Africa helped make the 2014 Wimbledon Championships more enjoyable and build a better school for workers’ children.