Belfast Telegraph

Think about the farmer who grows your food, Fairtrade campaigners urge

Fairtrade campaigners are launching an "urgent message" to consumers to consider the link between the food they buy and farmers in developing countries, as the UK gears up for an uncertain year for international trade.

The annual Fairtrade Fortnight starts today, with new figures showing a 2% increase in sales of Fairtrade products last year, worth more than £1.6 billion, with an 8% rise in sales of coffee and 6% in bananas.

The Fairtrade Foundation said that following the vote to leave the EU, the UK will have to renegotiate more than 50 international trade deals, leading to uncertainty for farmers and workers in poor countries.

A new video, called Don't Feed Exploitation, was launched as part of the campaign, showing young children delivering goods to people's doorsteps to highlight how farmers and their families can be exploited.

A survey of 2,000 adults for the Foundation found that almost one in five have never thought about whether food has been produced in exploitative conditions.

Smallholder farmers are responsible for providing the majority of the UK's tea and coffee, yet one in three people in Kenya's coffee and tea-growing regions live in poverty, more than two 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.

Three-quarters of those surveyed said they were aware of the positive change that buying ethically sourced goods can bring to communities in the developing world.

Michael Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, said there had been "unstinting and strong" support from the public in the past year to buying Fairtrade products, adding: "Fairtrade is bringing lasting change to the lives of 1.6 million farmers and workers around the world and it's wonderful to see Fairtrade bucking the market trend with strong growth and new commitments.

"But too few of us think about the people behind our products, and too many companies still do not publish what they pay their producers.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?"

Sales of Fairtrade wine increased by 3% last year and the Foundation expects the figure to rise this year.

Fairtrade coffee sales have been boosted by increased use in staff canteens.

The Co-op is to become the first UK retailer to use only Fairtrade cocoa in all its products, giving a huge boost to the Fairtrade movement.

The company is already a strong supporter of Fairtrade, sourcing products from more than 20 countries and supporting around 250,000 farmers.

The switch to 100% Fairtrade cocoa will cover more than 200 products, from the sprinkles on its doughnuts to chocolate tortes, and will be completed by the end of May.