27 February 2007, 14:00 PM
  • As fairtrade fornight begins, latest figures have revealed that sales are at an all-time high, prompting calls from the Fairtrade Foundation for even greater pressure for change

UK sales of Fairtrade products are running at £300m per year, with over 2,500 retail and catering product lines now carrying the Fairtrade Mark and 368 producer groups selling to the UK fair trade market.

The Fairtrade Foundation’s message for Fairtrade Fortnight 2007 is that, whilst sales of fair trade products continue to soar, change is still not happening quickly enough for millions of the world’s poorest farmers who remain trapped in ‘trade poverty’. The Foundation believes that 2007 will be the year when people define themselves by their attitude to fairness in society and expects a surge of support for real values, such as those enshrined in fair trade, which will create a momentum allowing significant change to become possible.

Change Today. Choose Fairtrade, the theme of Fairtrade Fortnight (26th Feb - 11th March) is an urgent call to individuals, community groups, schools, universities and faith networks to scale up their own activity as part of the Fairtrade Foundation’s vision of an even bigger movement for positive change on trade. This is a challenge to consumers to see the regular purchasing of fair trade products as a long-term contribution to tackling poverty - so that people in developing countries can also bring about the changes they want and need in their lives and communities. The Foundation’s message is also a challenge to governments, business and public institutions to implement their own changes in sourcing and procurement, taking the lead from ordinary consumers who have driven Fairtrade to where it is today with one in two people now saying they recognise the Fairtrade Mark.

As Harriet Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation, comments, “The road signs for tomorrow’s fair trade world are out there. Up and down the country, the public are knocking on doors from the town hall to the local supermarket asking for more engagement with fair trade, and this is driving companies, large and small, to respond. And all of this means more farmers are able to sell more of their produce under fair trade terms, strengthening their organisations, building long-term relationships and increasing benefits to their communities.

“But the road to our destination is still long and hard,” she adds. “Fairtrade is beginning to move from being an ‘optional extra’ to a ‘must-do’. Way too many companies have yet to wake up to the public’s changing expectations. We need people to shout even louder, and we need companies to respond with genuine engagement. Otherwise millions of farmers will remain consigned to poverty. Fairtrade must become an everyday part of the way this nation thinks and shops.”

In her address at the launch of Fairtrade Fortnight, Ms Lamb explained that sales of fair trade certified products reached an estimated retail value of £290m in 2006, an increase of 46% over the past year, and in 2007 sales are already running at an annual rate of at least £300m. Meanwhile the actual volumes of products, the benchmark for defining the real benefit returned to producers, rose by over 60%. Coffee sales (retail and catering) have increased by 39%, tea (retail and catering) by 50% and bananas by 39%.

Thousands of events will take place around the country to promote Fairtrade Fortnight – everything from fashion shows and football matches, to concerts and exhibitions. Tastings of fair trade products will be held in churches, mosques, synagogues, schools, universities, supermarkets and workplaces, while fair trade producers from countries including Uganda, Malawi, Ghana, Pakistan, Nicaragua, St Lucia (Windward Islands), Bolivia and South Africa will be touring the UK during the Fortnight and meeting directly with campaigners.

“With everything from peppercorns, cinnamon and vanilla pods, to avocados, wine, flowers, and cotton wool, there is something for everyone in fair trade,” says Harriet Lamb. “Many people still only think of tea and coffee, but there is now a huge range of Fairtrade products, and rapidly growing choice for shoppers. So there is something for everyone among the 2,500 Fairtrade retail and catering products - and Fairtrade Fortnight 2007 is a great time for people to make the change and choose Fairtrade.”