The Fairtrade Foundation says it is “not necessarily the right organisation” to set up and run a fair trade milk scheme.

Against a backdrop of plummeting farm gate prices and tales of dairy farmers being driven out of business because of below-cost-of-production payments they receive for their milk from the big supermarkets, calls for a ‘Fairtrade-style’ standard for fresh milk have been growing louder.

Could the Fairtrade Mark be made to work on milk? “It’s a fair question,” says the Fairtrade Foundation’s director of policy and public affairs, Barbara Crowther – and one that’s been debated a number of times before, she points out. But in a blog post this month, Crowther says the charity continues to make a distinction between farmers in developing countries – often living below the absolute poverty line and with no social safety net – and those living in comparatively prosperous countries with some degree of political or trades union representation.

She writes: “Whilst UK dairy farmers are able to take their protests to the doors of supermarkets and processors, lobby their MPs directly or via farmers’ unions … the farmers we represent have not got this access.”

She adds: “In short, we are 100% behind the concept of fair trade milk, but we’re not necessarily the right organisation to invest in the work that would be required to set up a scheme, which we would need to deliver against sustainable agricultural practices and high animal welfare standards too.”

“we are 100% behind the concept of fair trade milk, but we’re not necessarily the right organisation”

SFT_PatrickHolden-037-1389x500But Patrick Holden, chief executive of the Sustainable Food Trust – and a dairy farmer himself – argues that “fair trade should start at home”. In a blog written earlier this year, Holden challenged “the various certification organisations” to introduce a fair trade milk label with conditions of entry that guarantee a level of welfare conditions that would “ensure the fair trade mark met with customer expectations”.

Picture: Dairy farmer and Sustainable Food Trust chief exec, Patrick Holden (photo, Sustainable Food Trust) 

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About the Author

Jim Manson

Jim Manson is Editor-In-Chief of Diversified Communication UK's natural and organic publishing portfolio. He’s written widely on environment and development issues for specialist magazines and national media, including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times, Time Out and World Bank Urban Age.

Articles by Jim Manson
Jim Manson
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