Fairtrade Fortnight which began yesterday (Monday) has been given a boost with the announcement of record fairtrade sales figures - but organisers are warning that change is not happening quickly enough for some of the world's poorest people.
UK sales of Fairtrade products are now running at £300m per year with 2,500 retail and catering product lines now carry the Fairtrade Mark.
The number of towns, cities and villages awarded Fairtrade status is also set to reach 250 during Fairtrade Fortnight, which runs until 11th March.
Other events during fairtrade fortnight will see Roosevelt Skerrit, the Prime Minister of Dominica, in the Windward Islands, visiting the UK to give evidence to a parliamentary enquiry on fair trade and development. Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King will also be visiting the Windward Islands to confirm the supermarket's 100% switch to Fairtrade bananas.
But the Fairtrade Foundation’s message for Fairtrade Fortnight 2007 is that, whilst sales of Fairtrade 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. "We expect a surge of support for real values, such as those enshrined in Fairtrade, which will create a momentum allowing significant change to become possible", a statement said.
'Choose Fairtrade', the theme of Fairtrade Fortnight, is being billed as an urgent call to individuals, community groups, schools, universities and faith networks to scale up their own activity as part of the Fairtrade vision of an even bigger movement for positive change on trade.
A challenge by campaigners is being made to consumers, governments, business and public institutions. The challenge to consumers is that they see the regular purchasing of Fairtrade 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.
“The road signs for tomorrow’s Fairtrade world are out there" said Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation, at the national launch of Fairtrade Fortnight at Lloyd’s of London.
"Up and down the country, the public are knocking on doors from the town hall to the local supermarket asking for more engagement with Fairtrade, 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 Fairtrade 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,” Harriet added. “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.
“Fairtrade has achieved a paradigm shift that has popularised the link with the farmers who grow the food on our tables that puts people – the producers and consumers – at the centre of trade, and is redefining what is acceptable behaviour for all of us, from consumers to business to governments. Fairtrade is a powerful idea showing that you can and should manage markets for social and development goals. It’s a powerful idea and it is rapidly triggering changes. The challenge now is to capitalize on the current momentum and take Fairtrade to the next level.”
There are now 3,100 Fairtrade Churches, over 30 Fairtrade Synagogues and nearly 50 Fairtrade Universities. Interest is now growing amongst mosques and Hindu temples.
As well as Sainsbury’s switch to 100 percent Fairtrade bananas, significant developments include Next and Debenhams launching their first clothes made with Fairtrade certified cotton, whilst Marks & Spencer is increasing its range to provide an ‘outfit for all the family’ and has converted all of their whole fresh pineapples to 100% Fairtrade.
As well as promoting Fairtrade Fortnight with national TV advertising, the Co-op will launch Fairtrade cotton shopping bags. Boots are launching a range of babywear from Hug called Little Green Radicals and TK Maxx are selling this year’s Comic Relief T shirts which are made of Fairtrade Certified Cotton. Monsoon are launching a new range of T shirts using Fairtrade Certified Cotton in Spring. Top Shop are launching a range of clothing with the fair trade pioneer company People Tree called ‘People Tree for Top Shop’.
Tesco is also extending its range of Fairtrade nuts to five items ranging from brazil nuts to a peanut, cashew and mango mix, Thresher’s is launching a range of Fairtrade wines, and Waitrose is switching its banana range to 100% Fairtrade and introducing a range of Fairtrade roses.