Sales of fairtrade goods increased 12 per cent during 2009 despite the recession, it was announced today (22 February) at the beginning of Fairtrade Fortnight.
However, the Fairtrade Foundatin will say at a evening reception in London, that the the global economic downturn made 2009 an incredibly tough year for the world’s poor.
The recession has been felt worst in developing countries, where an estimated 50-90 million more people were thrown into extreme poverty in 2009, according to UN Millennium Development Goal figures.
In the UK, seven in 10 people told YouGov that they cut back on their personal budgets in some way as a result of the downturn, including eating out less. Yet the UK public has remained staunchly loyal, resulting in another increase in the value of Fairtrade sales which are up by 12 per cent on 2008, to an estimated retail value of over £799m.
Seventy-one per cent of people also say they are willing to swap one or more products to Fairtrade in the next two weeks, according to the new YouGov poll commissioned by the Foundation.
"2009 was a tough year for everyone, but a desperate year for many poor communities and small farmers in developing countries," Harriet Lamb, the Chief Executive of the Fairtrade Foundation will say tonight. "For millions of growers and their families and communities, Fairtrade was able to make the difference that has helped them survive a difficult year and plan for the future. It is to the credit of the decent British and Irish public that they do care and, despite the recession, they are still voting with their wallets for fairness and want to change the indignities of an unjust trading system. These challenging times have been a wake-up call and forward-thinking companies have also been re-evaluating their priorities, seeing sustainability as the way forward for business, building relations with producers and introducing many Fairtrade products in the past year.’
Business momentum for Fairtrade continued to grow throughout 2009 fuelling sales growth, with a string of major commitments. Mainstream moves to Fairtrade included Cadbury Dairy Milk, all Starbucks espresso-based coffee, and Nestle’s four-finger KitKat - although this has been criticised by campaigners as a token gesture .
Sainsbury’s have also been rolling out their commitment to convert all their tea and coffee, Morrison’s are converting all their roast and ground coffee, Tesco is converting their Finest Tea and Tate & Lyle is converting their retail sugar. With new Fairtrade standards for cosmetics, companies like Boots, Lush, Bubble & Balm, and Neal’s Yard have all introduced Fairtrade lines.
This week, Ben and Jerry’s announced that they will be going 100 per cent Fairtrade in the UK and throughout Europe by the end of 2011, and globally by the end of 2013 – which means that every ingredient they use that can be Fairtrade certified, from sugar to nuts to cocoa, will be.
Last month, Green and Black’s also announced they will switch their entire range of chocolate bars and beverages to 100 per cent Fairtrade by the end of 2011.
The International Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander, who will be on a panel at the launch of Fairtrade Fortnight said: "Farmers and producers in some of the world’s poorest countries have suffered at the sharp end of the economic crisis and, in many cases, it is thanks to Fairtrade that they have been able to feed their families and keep their children in education. The label’s success on the high street is testament to UK shoppers’ desire to make a difference through their everyday purchases. I'm delighted that the Government’s recent promise of £12 million for Fairtrade will help increase the amount of products on our supermarket shelves and support thousands of extra families in the years ahead."
Fairtrade Fortnight 2010 has the theme of ‘The Big Swap’ to rally people across the UK and Ireland to swap everyday shopping basket items for Fairtrade products during the fortnight. During Fairtrade Fortnight, the Fairtrade Foundation will tot up product swaps on a special online swap-o-meter at www.bigswap.org.uk 
Fairtrade Fortnight is the annual nationwide campaign to promote awareness of Fairtrade and encourage people to buy products which carry the FAIRTRADE Mark in order to help farmers in developing countries.
Around 300 Fairtrade campaigners, retailers, manufacturers, producers, consumers and government ministers will be attending this evening’s reception