Fairtrade Foundation calls for a ‘resilient’ trade system

08 July 2024, 15:02 PM
  • In its 2024 manifesto, the organisation called on the new government to build fairer and more resilient trading partnerships in the face of a changing climate
Fairtrade Foundation calls for a ‘resilient’ trade system

Following Labour’s landslide election win, the new prime minister has much work to do to transform the food and drink sector in line with the party’s manifesto promises. At the same time, organisations have released their own manifestos to set out their priorities for the new government.

Alexander Carnwath, head of public affairs at the Fairtrade Foundation, said it was “crucial” that the new government “builds a fairer and more resilient trade system that works better for both UK consumers and those who produce much of our food in low-income countries.” 

The Fairtrade Foundation’s 2024 manifesto sets out three key asks. The first is for political leaders to develop trade policy that works for people and the planet. These policies, the charity said, must improve resilience for the smallholder farmers and workers producing food overseas, as well as support innovative business approaches to enhance environmental and social sustainability. 

Second, it called on the government to ensure responsible business by creating new legislation that ensures businesses address human rights and environmental violations in supply chains, including deforestation, while taking full account of the needs of farmers and workers. 

And third, the foundation said the UK must strengthen aid by responding to the needs and priorities of the farmers and workers making “crucial contributions” to the global food system.

“The UK imports almost half its food, with 16 percent coming from countries exposed to climate change and lacking the capacity to adapt and respond,” Alexander said. 

While British farmers are rightly urging the government to support the farmers and growers on our own shores to bolster food security, there are undeniably numerous products that, even when we boost homegrown food production, will need to be imported from abroad – and fine food retailers and producers will be well aware of the impact everything from geopolitical events to climate catastrophes can have on these products’ prices and availability.

“In recent years, we’ve seen how global events can have a massive impact on UK food supplies, with the cost of some of our favourite food products soaring and increasingly difficult conditions for farmers overseas – including ingredients like cocoa, sugar, olive oil and many others that are essential to the fine food industry,” Alexander said.

He called on the next government to commit to publishing a trade strategy that addresses key links between trade, development and environmental sustainability, setting up objectives across all three.

“It [the government] should also address UK competition law to provide support for innovations in the area of pre-competitive collaboration between businesses,” he said, which can be done through initiatives such as Fairtrade’s Shared Impact, to support environmental and development objectives.

“We urgently need to invest for the future, building fair and strong trading partnerships, with businesses working for people and planet, that will ensure the ongoing availability of our food in the face of a changing climate.”

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