Fairtrade Foundation unveils initiatives to champion women farmers and boost sales of Fairtrade sugar, cocoa and cotton

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At a conference being held in London today (15 October) to celebrate 20 years of the FAIRTRADE Mark in the UK, Michael Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, will say that after the banking crisis, the horsemeat scandal, the Rana Plaza factory disaster, and nearly 285,000 farmer suicides in India since 1995, the idea of ‘free trade’ has been exposed as “a myth that’s had its day”, which only benefits a powerful few at the expense of the many.

Pointing to slavery as the worst example of supply chain exploitation, Gidney will reflect on the remarkable growth of Fairtrade over the last two decades – UK sales were estimated at £1.73bn in 2013 – and say that by acting together, consumers, companies, campaigners and governments have the power to make trade fairer and transform lives.

He will announce a number of new initiatives that reflect Fairtrade’s increasingly broad focus “from labelling to enabling”, including a new project to champion women coffee farmers in East Africa, grants for ethical businesses to help them deliver improvements for farmers and workers, and new programmes to boost sales of Fairtrade sugar, cocoa and cotton.

Also speaking at the ‘Fair Future’ conference event, which will be chaired by ethical journalist and broadcaster Lucy Siegle; TV presenter and businessman, Nick Hewer, who recently returned from visiting Fairtrade banana farmers in the Windward Islands, will encourage businesses to take a responsible view of their relationships with their suppliers. Hewer said: “Supermarkets need to build up a reservoir of goodwill with their customers and seeing Fairtrade in store brings that goodwill and even affection.”

A recorded message from HRH The Prince of Wales, offering his warmest congratulations on the 20th anniversary of the FAIRTRADE Mark, will be broadcast to more than 300 delegates including business leaders, politicians, NGOs, campaigners, and farmer representatives from Africa and Latin America, who had come together to discuss how to create a fairer future and deliver lasting change for farmers, workers, their families and communities.

International Development Secretary, Justine Greening will say: “The power of Fairtrade, championed by some of Britain’s best brands, is undeniable. It is influencing how businesses work in developing countries and transforming the lives of the world’s poorest people. DFID investment of £18m over six years in Fairtrade will open up markets in more hard to reach places and on top of that, break down trade barriers faced by women. Enabling the world’s poorest people to get a fair price for what they produce helps end poverty and also creates tomorrow’s new markets for us to trade with.”

Along with consumers and campaigners, companies have played a key role in supporting the growth of Fairtrade in the UK. Global brands including Ben & Jerry’s and Starbucks Coffee Company will speak at the event about their commitment to trading fairly. Mark Price, managing director, Waitrose, and deputy chairman, The John Lewis Partnership, said: “There are countless people across the globe who owe Fairtrade the greatest possible debt. Waitrose shares with Fairtrade its principles of community development, collaboration and long term sustainability. We look forward to continuing to work with Fairtrade to ensure a fairer future for all.”

Reflecting on the impact that has been delivered by Fairtrade, chief Adam Tampuri, Ghanaian cashew nut farmer and chair of Fairtrade Africa, said: “Over the last 20 years, the Fairtrade movement has made a significant different to farmers and workers around the world, through the payment of a fair price, a premium that can be invested in businesses and communities, and the empowerment that comes from being able to work towards a more sustainable future. Producers now own 50% of the Fairtrade system, which means that people in the south are not just beneficiaries, but co-owners. There is much to celebrate, but also much more to do, to unlock more of the benefits of Fairtrade, and extend its reach, so that greater impact can be achieved over the next 20 years and beyond.”

John Steel, CEO of Cafédirect, the event’s headline sponsor, said: “As the UK’s first and largest 100% Fairtrade hot drinks brand, Cafédirect has been a strong supporter of Fairtrade since the very beginning. 20 years later, we celebrate the achievements of the Fairtrade movement so far and commit to promoting an even fairer future, where business is used as a force for good to change lives and build communities.”

Fairtrade Foundation will thank Cafédirect, and sponsors Oikocredit, Oxfam and Shared Interest, for their valuable support for the Fairtrade movement.

Twenty years ago, the FAIRTRADE Mark appeared on just three products: Green & Black’s Maya Gold chocolate, Cafedirect medium roast coffee, and Clipper tea. Today, the FAIRTRADE Mark is the most widely-known ethical label in the world and UK shoppers can now choose from over 4,500 Fairtrade products including tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate, bananas, sugar, cotton, gold jewellery, cut flowers, wine and cosmetics.

Fairtrade benefits 1.4m farmers and workers in more than 70 developing countries, by ensuring they receive a fair, stable price for their produce, better working conditions, and a Fairtrade Premium that can be invested in their business or in projects that will benefit their community, such as classrooms, clinics, clean drinking water or climate adaptation programmes.

The UK is the world’s largest Fairtrade market, and in 2013 UK shoppers bought an estimated £1.7bn of Fairtrade products, which resulted in over £26m of Fairtrade Premiums being paid to producers.