This is what those Fairtrade labels really mean

Supporting the Fairtrade movement helps make a real difference to the lives of farmers and producers in developing countries.

Press Association
Last updated: 9 March 2018 - 7.05am

You may have seen the FAIRTRADE Mark on product packaging, but do you know exactly what it means? Well, Fairtrade Fortnight, which runs till March 11, is a good time to find out.

[Read more: 10 of the best fairtrade wines for Fairtrade Fortnight]

Here’s what you need to know:

What is Fairtrade?

The Fairtrade Foundation, which champions the UK’s Fairtrade movement, says Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. It currently works with 1.6 million farmers and workers across 74 developing countries.

Fairtrade requires companies to pay sustainable prices which must never fall lower than the market price, in order to fight discrimination against the poorest, weakest producers.

Think about the farmers
Wondering why the movement is necessary? Take tea and coffee, for example. Smallholder farmers are responsible for providing the majority of the UK’s tea and coffee, yet one in three people in Kenya’s coffee and tea-growing regions live in poverty, more than two million children work in hazardous conditions in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, and the average cocoa farmer in Côte d’Ivoire lives on less than 40p a day.

[Read more: 13 great uses for coffee, from combatting cellulite to clearing a blocked drain]

Spotting Fairtrade items

You can tell if a food is Fairtrade if it carries the official FAIRTRADE Mark.   There are more than 4,500 Fairtrade products on sale, ranging from coffee and tea to fruit and flowers – and even gold. Fairtrade certifies products and ingredients, independently checking Fairtrade Standards have been met by all the farmers, workers and companies in the supply chain. To show consumers these checks have been made, the Fairtrade Foundation licenses the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on products. When all the ingredients that can be Fairtrade in a product meet the required standards, the product carries the FAIRTRADE Mark. However, companies can choose to source only one ingredient on Fairtrade terms for their ranges and the products may still carry the Mark.

What are the Fairtrade Standards?

The Fairtrade Foundation sets Fairtrade Standards, which are social, economic and environmental guidelines for both companies and the farmers and workers who grow food. For farmers and workers, the standards include protection of workers’ rights and the environment, for companies they include the payment of the Fairtrade Minimum Price and an additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in business or community projects of the community’s choice.

Setting a minimum price

The Fairtrade Minimum Price supports farmers growing products such as cocoa, coffee and bananas to have more secure incomes, helping them organise into cooperatives and improve their negotiating position to secure a higher price. Fairtrade also improves access to agricultural services like organic training and premium markets, so farmers have an incentive to farm better and sell more.

The Come On In Campaign

The Fairtrade Fortnight Come On In campaign is calling on the public and businesses to have a look at what life’s like for farmers and workers in developing countries, and to stand with them to close the door on exploitation and ensure they get a fair deal. New figures show public support for Fairtrade is at an all-time high, with 93% of people aware of Fairtrade, and 83% trusting the Fairtrade Mark.

A Fairtrade farmer says…

Marcial Quintero, a member of the Fairtrade banana co-operative Coobana in Panama, says: “Before joining Fairtrade, we didn’t see any benefits, development or profit. The price we used to receive per box wasn’t enough to cover our costs – and for 17 years, the price didn’t change. Since starting with Fairtrade it’s made a mega-revolution in our lives.”

Adam Gardner, communities campaigns manager at the Fairtrade Foundation, says: “It’s a scandalous reality that millions of farmers and workers are being ripped off despite working hard to provide the products we love. More people choosing, sharing and shouting about Fairtrade in the UK during Fairtrade Fortnight will open doors for more producers like Marcial to break the stranglehold of poverty prices.”