Fairtrade fares well in turbulent times for grocery market

As Fairtrade Fortnight kicks off today, there is some good news for the Fairtrade sector with positive volume growth in four out of the five main Fairtrade food categories.

Strong volume growth was seen in coffee (up 12%), tea (3%), bananas (5%) and cocoa products (6%), indicating, says the Fairtrade Foundation, that shoppers and businesses are still standing up for Fairtrade in spite of the current tough grocery market.

Volumes of wine and flower sales also saw double digit growth and gold increased five-fold in 2015, although remaining quite a small market overall.

In real terms, the growth in means that in 2015, compared with 2014: more than 88 million more Fairtrade bananas were eaten; an estimated 255 million more cups of coffee were drunk; and we brewed an additional 184 million cups of Fairtrade tea.

“These figures show that British shoppers remain committed to Fairtrade, despite the turbulence in the grocery market,” said Michael Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation. “That’s good news for those businesses offering Fairtrade products. We’re delighted to see increases in most of the categories for which Fairtrade is best known – this means more producers are getting a better deal for the food they grow for us”.

However, not all sectors saw increased volume sales; fresh and dried fruit and nuts saw a decline, as did cotton.

The Fairtrade Foundation’s initial estimates of the overall retail value of UK market showed a slight fall to around £1.6 billion in 2015 compared with £1.7 million in 2014, however, this was mainly due to the collapse in the price and market for cane sugar. Volume sales of Fairtrade sugar down 36% due to changes in EU market regulations.

Gidney commented: “Sales in many commodities remain strong for Fairtrade, yet the irony of the EU flooding the market in cheap sugar at a time of increased concern over obesity is surely lost on no-one, with the added risk of pushing 200,000 farmers in developing countries back into poverty.”

During Fairtrade Fortnight (29 February to 13 March) the Fairtrade Foundation’s new 2016-2020 strategy Changing Trade, Changing Lives – Fairtrade Can, I Can, will be launched. The strategy includes an ambition to drive transformative change in five focus commodity sectors (coffee, tea, cocoa, flowers and bananas) on issues such as improving income and delivery of living wages, as well as innovate together with businesses to deliver deeper impact through new partnership and programme approaches. The first of the partnerships, with the supermarket Waitrose, has already resulted in the establishment of a programme responding to a call from small scale coffee farmers in Brazil to support them in adapting to climate change, improving their crops, and fair prices for their coffee beans.