Fairtrade’s exceptional growth

Ofairtrade3ne and a half million farmers and workers around the world are benefiting from increased sales of Fairtrade products according to a new Fairtrade International report.

Latest figures show producers worldwide received an estimated NZ$168 million in Fairtrade Premium to invest in business and social projects; a 14 per cent increase to farmers on the year before.

Fairtrade Australia New Zealand’s CEO, Molly Harriss Olson, says exceptional growth in sales of Fairtrade certified products in NZ has contributed to the global impact of Fairtrade.

“In NZ, this growth was driven by sales increases in the coffee and chocolate categories growing by 16 per cent and 22 per cent respectively, and a surge in the availability and consumption of Fairtrade bananas. This result clearly shows that Kiwi shoppers are dedicated to supporting poverty alleviation for small-scale farmers,” says Harriss Olson.

The Fairtrade International report for 2014-15 , Global Change, Local Leadership, highlights the benefits enjoyed by 1.5 million Fairtrade producers in 74 countries. The report points to the introduction of new ways of sourcing Fairtrade gold and increased sales of established products such as cotton and cocoa as the main factors behind the global success story.

“When Fairtrade burst onto farmers’ fields and shop shelves 25 years ago, it was bold. Today we still nurture that innovative energy to ensure that Fairtrade is responding to the ever growing challenges that small-scale farmers and workers face,” says Harriet Lamb, CEO of Fairtrade International.

Fairtrade continues to improve conditions for workers, collaborating with trade unions, other certifiers, companies and governments to achieve a living wage for workers on plantations. Alongside this work, Fairtrade International is driving forward in new focus areas. It has recruited a senior advisor for gender to implement a strategy for achieving gender equality in Fairtrade organisations. Later this year, the Fairtrade Climate Standard will be launched, enabling farming communities to access the carbon market and become more resilient to the effects of climate change.

“Fairtrade is tackling issues of gender equality and climate change head-on to ensure that disadvantaged farmers and workers have the tools and support to mitigate the impacts of these challenges,” says Harriss Olson.

In 2014, consumers worldwide spent an estimated NZ$10.2 billion on products carrying the Fairtrade mark, driving increased incomes for Fairtrade producers and consequently reducing their vulnerability. Last year saw significant increases in retail sales volumes in key product categories such as cotton (28 per cent) and cocoa (24 per cent), with the Fairtrade sourcing programs driving almost half of the increase in volume sold, and gold (259 per cent) largely due to a revised model enabling goldsmiths to purchase more Fairtrade gold.

This increase was also observed at home, with NZ$89 million spent on Fairtrade certified products in NZ in 2014; a 28 per cent growth on the previous year’s sales figures.

According to Fairtrade’s recent satisfaction survey, 93 per cent of Fairtrade producers are happy with the support services they receive. This supports findings by the independent certification body, FLOCERT, which reported that producers scored Fairtrade an average of nine out of 10, indicating positive impact for small-scale producers and workers.

The satisfaction survey also highlighted producers need for increased support in accessing markets for their products. One way to address this is by building opportunities for producers to sell their Fairtrade products in local markets. In 2015, Brazil became the fourth producer country to launch a Fairtrade marketing organisation and consumers there can now purchase homegrown Fairtrade coffee and honey.

Conditions for many of the world’s farmers remain challenging despite efforts for their upliftment. “The problems faced by poor farmers and workers result from centuries of marginalisation and exploitation,” says Harriet Lamb. “Fairtrade can help narrow the gap between rich and poor, and to change a global food system that exploits both people and planet, but there are no quick fix solutions. Real change will only happen when the voices of smallholder farmers and workers are heard – and acted upon – at the highest levels of government and commerce.”

Additional highlights

A 2014 literature review in the Journal of Economic Perspectives concluded that Fairtrade farmers receive higher prices on average and have greater access to credit, leading to an increase in their financial stability.

In 2014 small-scale producer organisations spent almost half their Fairtrade Premium on strengthening their organisations.

Fairtrade products are available in more than 125 countries.

Fairtrade has recently revised its Generic Trade Standard (now called the Trader Standard). One of the key changes producers will benefit from is the requirement for buyers to either offer or facilitate pre-financing for the producer organisations from which they source.

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