Fairtrade Food Sales Continue to Grow Despite Economic Hard Times

By Alison Withers

In the USA and UK sales of Fairtrade products are reported to have increased dramatically throughout 2010 compared with 2009 despite continued economic hard times for many consumers.

In the USA, cocoa sales grew by 67%, of which 88% was also certified as organic. Citrus fruits increased by 96% and sugar by 60% while in the UK the Fairtrade Foundation reports a 40% increase in sales of products adding up to a total of £1.17 billion.

These figures are in marked contrast to figures released by the UK's Soil Association showing that sales of organic food dropped by around £100 million in 2010.

The annual World Fair Trade day will be held on May 14, 2011, and will help raise the profile of one of the Fairtrade movement's main principles, which is that people and the environment should be at the heart of trade and consumption for the sustainable development of local communities.

Although social goals, such as a fair return for producers' labour, are the primary principles of the movement, its ten principles also include one specifically focused on the environment and sustainable farming.

It says that producers should maximize the use of raw materials from sustainably managed sources in their ranges, buying locally when possible. Production technologies should try to reduce energy consumption and use renewable energy technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Agricultural commodity producers in the Fairtrade movement minimize their environmental impacts, by using organic or low pesticide use production methods wherever possible.

In the UK there is considerable and growing interest in finding ways for organic and Fairtrade standards could come together. However, while shoppers may be continuing their commitment to Fairtrade produce the evidence on organic sales suggests that price is likely to remain a significant factor as long as economic austerity continues to put pressure on household income.

This suggests that to develop any greater synergy between Fairtrade and organic foods research and development of low-chem agricultural products that can help producers to sustainably increase the yield from their land and minimize crop losses from pests and diseases needs to continue.

Research and development plays an important role in providing farmers with the tools they need. Biopesticides Developers are likely therefore to play a key role by providing low-chem agricultural products to replace the previous generation of artificial, chemical-based pesticides and fertilisers that are heavily dependent on oil.

So the continuing efforts of researchers to find biopesticides and biofungicides based on natural enemies to plant predators, pests and diseases may have an important part to play in helping producers meet the goal of increasing organic production to while getting a fair return for their efforts.

Getting such agricultural products onto the market and then on to the smaller producers in the developing world, however, will require an efficient and less costly regulatory mechanism plus widespread access to training in their use.

Both will be key to providing consumers with affordable, healthy food choices that and ensuring that small farmers and communities get a fair price for their produce.

Alison Withers
Article by Alison Withers
Increasingly there is an environmental as well as an ethical dimension to Fairtrade food and non-food products. Biopesticides and other low-chem agricultural products could help producers with both issues. www.agraquest.com.

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