Nearly a quarter of adults never think about who produces their food and drink, Fairtrade Foundation reports

Tea, and increasingly coffee, is firmly entrenched in the British way of life, with more than 60 billion cups drunk each year in the UK. But a new poll reveals that not enough people are making the unconscious link between the food we buy and the millions of farmers in developing countries who grow it, often not earning enough to feed their own families.

New research published today shows that a quarter of Brits admit they never consider the farmers and workers who produce our daily cuppa, and almost two in ten people, 17%, have never thought about whether their food has been produced in exploitative conditions where producers don’t receive a fair deal for what they grow.

Smallholder farmers are responsible for providing the majority of the UK’s tea and coffee, yet 1 in 3 people in Kenya’s coffee and tea growing regions live in poverty; over 2 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.

Yet nearly three quarters of respondents, 72%, say that they are aware of the positive change that buying ethically sourced goods can bring to communities in the developing world.

So this year, the Fairtrade Foundation’s 23rd annual campaign Fairtrade Fortnight (27 February – 12 March) will spread an urgent message to speak up on behalf of producers more loudly than ever.

That’s because 2017 will be one of the most uncertain years for generations when it comes to international trade. Following the vote for Brexit, the UK will need to renegotiate more than 50 international trade deals; and no one knows yet what this will mean for farmers and workers in poor countries.

Michael Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “Fairtrade is bringing lasting change to the lives of 1.6m farmers and workers around the world and it’s wonderful to see Fairtrade bucking the market trend with strong growth and new commitments.  Yet too many companies still do not publish what they pay their producers.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?”

The research backs this up. Once challenged to consider how purchasing power can count, a whopping 70% of Brits say they want to make sure that their food and drink is not produced in exploitative conditions and three quarters say they would now look for an ethically sourced product.

“When we reach for our everyday foods without necessarily questioning what lies behind them, seduced by nice packaging, or attractive products and brands, we may be unconsciously feeding exploitation”, Michael continued.

In a collaboration with advertising agency AMV BBDO, the Fairtrade Foundation has made a new short film entitled ‘Don’t Feed Exploitation’. When young children turn up on a couple’s doorstep with a food delivery, their reactions are caught on camera.

Using the insight that people respond strongly to unfairness, the film brings the realities of exploited farmers home to each and every one of us, and shows how buying Fairtrade can make a direct difference. The film shows the condensed journey of our produce – from the beginning of the supply chain, where workers toil away in rough conditions, directly to the end of the journey, where we bring the produce into our homes.

“Imagine what could happen if we all put Fairtrade into our shopping baskets: that would be an incredible opportunity to reach more producers with even more impact, but it would also be a powerful signal to companies, and to government, that there are millions of people in this country who do not want their daily food to come at the cost of exploiting farmers,” Michael concluded.

The Fairtrade Foundation is encouraging people across the UK to support farmers by holding Fairtrade breaks in their community, sharing stories of farmers who are benefiting from getting a fairer deal, buying Fairtrade products and sharing the film using the#ChooseFairtrade.