New data published today reveals that over 60% of the British public are unaware of the threats that climate change poses to UK supplies of cocoa, coffee and bananas. In addition, well over three quarters (78%) of Brits say it’s important that people overseas who produce tea, coffee, food, flowers, cotton and other staple products imported by the UK are able to adapt to climate change.
The consumer survey, commissioned by the Fairtrade Foundation and run by Opinium, reveals that whilst public understanding of the links between decent incomes for farmers and climate resilience is low, there is a strong public willingness to address inequality caused by exploitative trade and climate change. This comes following new research from VU Amsterdam and Bern University of Applied Sciences that has found that over the next three decades, adverse climate conditions will trigger a drastic decline in banana yields in 10 countries, including India, Brazil and Colombia. Furthermore, a rise of just 2.1°C could leave 89.5 per cent of land used to cultivate cocoa unsuitable by 2050.
The survey also looked at whether increased public awareness around black history and racial equality in the UK over the last eighteen months had had an effect on individuals’ understanding of exploitative trade, and their subsequent response. It found that only 27% of Brits had become more aware of the UK’s colonial past and the exploitation that occurred at the hands of the British Empire, rising to just over a third (35%) of those aged between 18-34. In light of increased awareness of historical exploitation, just one fifth (21%) have considered how they can avoid supporting exploitation in today’s trade and supply chains by buying certain products and avoiding others.
In addition, the survey found that one in 10 (16%) respondents believe damaging trade practices are a thing of the past. Nevertheless, it indicated the willingness of the majority to play their part in ending harmful trade practices, with two thirds (67%) saying they would not buy a product if they knew it was linked to human rights abuses or exploitation.
Fairtrade commissioned the survey ahead of Fairtrade Fortnight, its two-week annual campaign that aims to raise awareness about the positive impact of buying Fairtrade products. This year’s Fortnight kicks off on 21 February and will highlight how buying Fairtrade is a simple yet impactful choice people can make to support farmers and workers in low-income countries as they work to adapt to the effects of climate change. Fairtrade’s Choose The World You Want Festival will run online throughout the two weeks, featuring around 40 virtual events designed to engage and inform people about the harmful impact of the climate crisis on farmers and food supplies. The festival also highlights how decent incomes and support through Fairtrade equips farmers to tackle climate impacts in their communities.
An overwhelming majority (84%) of Brits say that more should be done to prevent harmful trade practices, with seven in ten (70%) believing that the responsibility to do so lies with governments. Similarly, two thirds (66%) of the public state that it is the job of governments to tackle climate change, with 3 in 5 (62%) saying the UK government should treat the climate crisis with the same urgency as the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the survey revealing that public appetite for government action on trade and climate is high, Fairtrade is urging supporters to call on UK politicians to deliver on their promises made at COP26 to provide new funding for farmers and workers in low-income countries facing the worst of the climate crisis.
Whilst less than half (44%) of survey respondents currently see buying Fairtrade as a way to engage in climate activism, 70% state they would consider buying Fairtrade if it helped ensure the future availability of staples like tea, coffee, cotton, and chocolate. Fairtrade therefore hopes that the Choose the World You Want Festival will remind the public of the power they have as consumers to address exploitation, trade injustice and global inequality, and help producers build climate resilience.
Michael Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “It’s clear that the public want to see an end to trade that exploits those who produce the commodities we rely on every day – particularly in the context of climate. Cocoa brings so much joy to anyone who loves chocolate, but more needs to be done to ensure that farmers growing these products are supported to live and work well, and build their resilience to the devastating impacts of the climate crisis. Farmers in low-income countries are already using their expertise to tackle climate change, but they urgently need more resources and decent incomes to do so. Through Fairtrade Fortnight, and the Choose the World You Want Festival, we want to help more consumers to recognise the role they have in helping farmers and workers adapt to climate change. By choosing Fairtrade, they can make a real, tangible difference to the lives of people who grow much of the food we love to eat in the UK.”
To mark the start of Fairtrade Fortnight, Fairtrade has commissioned a giant grass painting of Bismark Kpabitey, a Fairtrade cocoa farmer who is a member of the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union in the Ahafo region of Ghana. Produced by Sand In Your Eye in West Yorkshire, the image depicts Kpabitey holding a cocoa pod aloft, and is designed to help consumers make the link between their food and the people who produce it. Kpabitey, who recently attended COP26 on behalf of Fairtrade, stated: “Looking at the situation now it is very difficult to go into agriculture because the rainfall pattern has changed. There is a long drought – currently we are experiencing a very hot sun, which is affecting our crops and has really reduced production. And once production is reduced, financially you become handicapped. That is the challenge.”
Dr Sarah Cardey, Director of the Graduate Institute for International Development, Agriculture and Economics (GIIDAE) at the University of Reading, and an expert in development and rural livelihoods, added: “Smallholder farmers in low-income countries are on the frontlines of the climate crisis, with droughts, floods and storms severely threatening livelihoods of producers across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. For these farmers and workers, a decent income is absolutely essential for building resilience to climate shocks, and ensuring they can adapt to a continually evolving climate.
“Without good wages, their livelihoods are severely threatened – as is the supply of everyday products these farmers and workers produce. Consumers have the power to make a difference to producers’ lives by choosing Fairtrade products when they do their shopping. This in turn will help producers to build climate resilience, allowing them to continue producing items like tea, coffee and bananas that we consume every day.”
Fairtrade Fortnight begins this Monday 21 February with a screening of a ‘special cut’ of Caroline’s Story, a ground-breaking new documentary by Nyakobi Kahura. The film is part of a series that showcases how the COVID-19 pandemic and climate crisis are impacting farming right now, and how through working with Fairtrade, producers are already taking action to overcome these challenges. The virtual event will feature a Q&A with Caroline Rono, a Kenyan coffee farmer featured in the film.
Bridgerton actress and Fairtrade patron Adjoa Andoh, who will chair the screening, commented: “The climate crisis is a threat to all our food security worldwide and we all have a part to play in protecting our food and our world – consumers, companies, and governments alike. Too many farmers struggle every day to put food on their tables while growing food for ours. They suffer at the bottom of a global trading system, still balanced in favour of the powerful few.
“Fairtrade works to rebalance that inequality so that all farmers can earn enough to feed and clothe and educate their families, while producing crops of delicious quality undamaged by toxic pesticides for our tables. We get to buy healthy tasty food for our families, grown by healthy farmers working in harmony with their environment. This is the Fairtrade culture that I’m so proud to support. By buying Fairtrade the people I feed are well, the families of the farmers who grow the food are well and the land that supports the crops is well. We make choices every day – please stretch out hands of love and hope across the world and choose Fairtrade for fairness, wellness and delicious food and drink!”