Co-operative to switch to 100% Fairtrade blueberries in November 2012

Co-operative: 100% Fairtrade blueberries

Co-operative: 100% Fairtrade blueberries

The Co-operative Food is switching all of its fresh winter blueberries to Fairtrade from 25 November 2012, meaning all of the retailer’s blueberries which can be Fairtrade, will be Fairtrade.  

As part of The Co-operative’s Ethical Plan, which was launched last year, the Group pledged if products can be labelled as Fairtrade, they will be, and aims to have achieved 90% of this by the end of 2013. The blueberry move will take The Co-operative to 80% of this overall target by the end of 2012, the company said.

Building on its leading Fairtrade commitments, the retailer has also supported a ‘beyond Fairtrade’ initiative with its Fairtrade honey supplier, Apicoop, to enable the Chilean co-operative to expand and strengthen its export of Fairtrade blueberries. In 2007, Traidcraft supported Apicoop to diversify into blueberries and The Co-operative has sourced its Fairtrade blueberries since 2011.

As well as paying a fair price for their crops, and providing a Fairtrade premium,The Co-operative reports it has supported Apicoop with a project to improve infrastructure and agricultural machinery to help them manage their increasing volumes of blueberries. In addition, the welfare of Apicoop’s workers has been improved through new accommodation and sanitation facilities.

Recently, Apicoop, which also produces The Co-operative’s Fairtrade honey, celebrated the completion of a new packing facility, also built with support from The Co-operative’s investment. Through the new facility, Apicoop is now packing its own blueberries, helping to return increased incomes to members. And, because of all the investment in Apicoop, The Co-operative is able to sell 100% of its winter blueberries as Fairtrade. Fairtrade has made a big difference to the lives of Apicoop’s workers. One of these is Yoanny Guzman, who said: “People who have been working for many years in other blueberry fields want to come and work here because the salary is better and the way workers are treated is much better.”

Apicoop co-operative is one of 16 co-operatives and producer organisations across Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean who are benefitting from the retailer’s programme of’ beyond Fairtrade’ initiatives, which include training, education and improved facilities and ensures that The Co-operative continues to set the pace as Fairtrade becomes more mainstream.

The Co-operative introduced the world’s first Fairtrade fresh blueberries two years ago, with crops coming from Blue Mountain Berries in South Africa. 

Established in 2006, the Fairtrade-certified Blue Mountain Berries is a 120ha southern highbush blueberry project in the George region of South Africa. It is the result of a joint venture between the Sinksa Trust and the Bessieplaas Werkerstrust, which was set up to provide benefits, grants and training to the workers on the farm to improve their socio-economic conditions. BlueMountain Berries was the first blueberry producer in the world to become Fairtrade-certified and The Co-operative’s move to 100% Fairtrade winter blueberries will generate a five-fold increase in Fairtrade premiums to Blue Mountain Berries this season.

This Fairtrade-certified grower will continue to supply the retailer with blueberries until their season ends, when the supply will then be picked up by Apicoop in Chile.

Brad Hill, Fairtrade strategy manager, The Co-operative Food, said: “Having launched the world’s first fresh Fairtrade blueberries from Blue Mountain in South Africa, we then turned our attention to helping our long standing Chilean Fairtrade honey supplier in their own blueberry diversification project.

“Working with Traidcraft, we were able to initially provide a market for Apicoop’s first crop before then investing in our own ‘beyond Fairtrade’ project to increase their productivity and capacity. By the end of the year, all our fresh winter blueberries will be Fairtrade, as part of our wider strategic commitment that if it can be labelled as Fairtrade, it will be and our investment in Apicoop will allow us to deliver this commitment in the blueberry category.”