Blog post: Fairtrade

23 February 2010

Yesterday the Fairtrade Foundation launched the start of their annual campaigning event: ‘Fairtrade Fortnight’ with the news that the value of Fairtrade sales, was up on 2008 by 12% to an estimated retail value of over £800m. We’ve come a long way and these figures paint a welcome picture that there is a growing number of people who care about the impact of their purchases on producers in developing countries. There is no denying that Fairtrade has benefited millions in developing countries and increasing UK sales will benefit many more. But the £800m Fairtrade sales is just a tiny slice of the overall pie where the grocery market alone is estimated at £150bn.

Fairtrade still has a long way to go and even then it can only go so far. The global trading system is unjust whether it is the European Union pushing for unfair trade deals with developing countries or unfair trade rules being negotiated at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Global trade rules favour the interests of multinationals at the expense of small farmers, producers and emerging industries in developing countries. While Fairtrade can benefit some 7.5 million small producers and workers - there are billions more people in developing countries not covered by Fairtrade standards and instead are up against a system that is fundamentally stacked against them.

At the end of last year I went to the WTO ministerial in Geneva where I met farmers and producers from developing countries who had spent their lives campaigning against WTO rules which were destroying their livelihoods and communities. Subsidised US cotton is causing low cotton prices and Samuel Amehou from Benin said “Farmers are losing hope for their cotton. Something needs to be done urgently otherwise our cotton sector will die and many farmers will end up in a bad situation.” I also met poultry farmers from Ghana who told me about cheap European poultry decimating their industry and Filipino fishers who simply cannot compete with supersized European commercial trawlers who are fishing their waters and depleting their fish stocks. Global trade rules are benefitting multinationals and making it hard for producers and farmers in poor communities to develop sustainable livelihoods

During the fortnight, go for the big swap and buy Fairtrade products, take our Fairtrade action - every bit counts. But tackling unfair global trade will require political and structural change to make a widespread impact. That’s why WDM will continue working in solidarity with groups of workers, farmers and fishers from across the global south to promote a more just and sustainable trading system for all.

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