Fairtrade boom defies high street gloom

Shoppers want 'more traceable food' as fairtrade sales rise 20% to �1.5bn. Picture: Neil Hanna
Shoppers want 'more traceable food' as fairtrade sales rise 20% to �1.5bn. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Sales of Fairtrade products increased by 19 per cent in the UK last year to reach £1.5 billion, despite the UK’s continued economic problems, new figures have revealed.

The Fairtrade Foundation said sales were also increasing around the world, showing that consumers had an appetite for food traded on fairer terms.

The report, to mark the start of Fairtrade Fortnight, also showed that a growing number of firms are selling or increasing their commitment to fairly traded products, including the Co-op, Nestle, Divine, Tate & Lyle, Liberation Foods and Greggs.

Michael Gidney, chief executive of the foundation, said: “Support for Fairtrade shows that, despite the economic recession, the public have an appetite for more traceable food that is traded on fairer terms with farmers, and smart companies are recognising this. People are voting with their shopping baskets, and forward thinking businesses are responding to this.”

The Co-operative reported that total sales of Fairtrade products in its stores had increased by 20 per cent, helped by a switch last year to 100 per cent Fairtrade bananas, and a 40 per cent increase in Fairtrade wine sales in the last quarter of 2012.

Earlier this month, The Co-operative Food became the first retailer in the UK to switch all own-brand bunches of standard roses and single stem roses to Fairtrade, sourced from Fairtrade-certified growers in Kenya.

Steve Murrells, The Co-operative Food chief executive, said: “These tough economic times are making people think very carefully about how they spend their money. Our customers can see the benefits of buying Fairtrade, and the difference it can make in tackling global poverty, but they also know they are purchasing great-tasting products which provide great value.”

The Fairtrade Foundation is planning a protest with a difference outside parliament next month, featuring 3 in-tall versions of celebrities and members of the public.

Anyone supporting an online petition supporting a fairer deal for farmers will be able to create a personalised paper version, which will be used during a demonstration in Westminster on 4 March. Cheryl McGechie, director of Public Engagement at the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “This fortnight we wanted to do something a bit different. Our march on parliament is an engaging way for everyone to go further to help smallholder farmers combat unfair trade practices.”

Comedian Harry Hill said: “I’ve visited Fairtrade smallholder peanut farmers in Malawi so have seen for myself how important it is that they get a fair deal when they trade. My little friend here agrees and will be joining the march to demand the government takes more action to improve conditions for farmers around the world.”