Farmers, workers and artisans in global supply chains are facing a crisis like no other. As trade halts, many enterprises and supply chains that exist to create opportunities for people around the world are fighting to survive. Globally, the Fair Trade movement works with over 2 million workers, farmers and artisans. Whether it is women jointly running a coffee cooperative in Kenya, workers in a Fairtrade certified banana plantation in Cameroon, refugees employed by a Fair Trade Enterprise in Italy, or artisans in a city slum in India working with their local producer group, they all depend on fairly-traded supply chains to survive and thrive. COVID-19, which started and continues as a public health crisis, has rapidly become an economic crisis, exposing numerous weaknesses in the current system. The recent lockdowns and the closure of borders are having an immediate negative impact on the income of the poor and vulnerable households.
An immediate concern relates to food security and nutrition, which are expected to be heavily impacted by the health crisis and the necessary responses, including limitations on travel and transportation and closure of public markets. Territorial markets, through which most of the food is bought in the developing world, will be affected and small-scale farmers are already losing the channels to sell the food they produce.
This crisis has reminded us how interconnected the world is, and that supply chains are only as strong as their weakest link. It is not only the food security of the Global South that is at stake. The food security of the Global North may also be jeopardised unless the farmers that grow our food can continue to work safely to supply consumers across the world. The question is not whether wealthy nations will help farmers, the real challenge is how to support farmers, in the Global North and in the Global South, to feed the world.
COVID-19 may possibly have rewritten the rules, but it has certainly made us ask what rules are the most important. We have the opportunity to radically rethink the unsustainable and unequal global growth model and replace it with an emphasis on well-being, sustainability and equity.
The Fair Trade movement calls on G-20 leaders to:
- Put people first
- Provide urgently a stimulus package to support a green and fair transition
- Support Fair Trade Enterprises and Fairtrade supply chains