Fairtrade conference aims for decent incomes and a sustainable future

Against the background of a global crisis in cocoa and coffee prices, Fairtrade today brought together producers, businesses, governments and trade justice campaigners to map out a sustainable future for the world’s small-scale farmers and workers.

The Fairtrade conference Changing Trade, Changing Lives explored trends in sustainability, supply chains and human rights, and assessed progress towards achieving decent incomes for the 1.6 million Fairtrade farmers and workers around the world.

“The current crisis in cocoa and coffee prices is symptomatic of a broken global trade system which means many farmers and workers don’t earn enough to pay for the basics like food, housing and education,” said Fairtrade International CEO Darío Soto Abril.

“Fairtrade is leading the fight for decent incomes in the cocoa, banana and coffee sectors,” he said. “But we can only do that in partnership with traders, brands and retailers.”

Dario Soto Abril, CEO Fairtrade International

“Fairtrade can’t solve this challenge by itself. It’s great to see some of the world’s biggest brands sitting in the same room as leading certification schemes to explore ways to tackle systemic unfairness in supply chains.”

Leading brands including Nestlé, Mars Wrigley, Lidl, Coop, Fyffes and Barry Callebaut took part in panel discussions on living incomes for cocoa farmers and living wages for workers on banana plantations.

“Without cocoa farmers we don’t have a business, which is why living income is so important,” said Michelle O’Neill, VP Global Corporate Affairs Cocoa, Mars Wrigley. “We support the recent government minimum floor price for cocoa in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire as long as the new price spreads down to the farmer. We all want farmers to earn a decent standard of living and be rewarded for growing cocoa in a sustainable way.”

Addressing unsustainably low prices which are driving thousands of coffee farmers out of business, Roberto Vélez Vallejo, CEO, Colombian Coffee Growers Federation said the coffee crisis will only end when farmers are paid a fair price. “In 1980 coffee was three dollars a pound. Two weeks ago it was 88 cents. Coffee growers get less than 0.4% of the price. Who can live on that? The coffee industry is healthy and demand is growing, yet coffee growers are selling coffee under the cost of production. It should not be allowed.”

“We must all collaborate more closely to set the course towards a future where people and nature thrive in harmony,” said Rainforest Alliance CEO Han de Groot, who took part in a panel discussion on Certification and Beyond. “Increased collaboration with governments, companies, NGOs and producers is the key. The Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade have similar objectives and face some big common challenges. A central one is how to better support farmers and workers trying to secure decent incomes. Key conferences like this one take us one step closer to a more sustainable future for the world’s small-scale farmers.”