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Fundamental shift in understanding of farmers and producers in developing world called for at Fairtrade conference

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Greater consumer understanding is needed to shift consumers’ perspective when it comes to the lives of farmers and producers in the developing world, a recent conference has been told.

The call came from Michael Fletcher, Retail Chief Commercial Officer at Co-op, during a Fairtrade conference, where he addressed the true impacts of unfair trade and the harm it causes to communities around the world. He encouraged the public to see this the same way Blue Planet showed the impact of plastic on the world’s oceans.

Other delegates, including Fairtrade Foundation CEO, Michael Gidney, agreed that consumers needed to have their eyes opened to the plight of the farmers and consumers who toil to make the products, such as coffee, bananas and tea.

The conference, entitled ‘The Future of Trade: Can it work for everyone?’ brought together Fairtrade supporters, producers, commercial partners and NGOs to discuss and debate critical topics, such as gender equality in global trade, the future of transparency in supply chains, climate change adaptation and how to achieve living incomes for producers. Delegates heard from Fairtrade producers and farmers who spoke passionately about the impact of Fairtrade.

Xiomara Paredes, Executive Director, Latin American and Caribbean Network of Fair Trade Small Producers and Workers, emphasised the importance of farmers being able to access a stable market through Fairtrade, commenting: “Fairtrade brings huge benefit for producers. I see every day the changes Fairtrade makes in the lives of farmers.”

Ahead of a panel discussion on gender equality, Paredes also spoke about the importance of empowering women in the Fairtrade system.

The event also saw the launch of Fairtrade’s innovative new ways of working with business to complement traditional certification; companies are now able to work with Fairtrade on bespoke programmatic work or take advantage of Fairtrade’s expertise to gain a better understanding of their supply chains.

Gidney added: “Fairtrade is nearly 25-years-old and in that time we have made great strides in improving the lives of millions of farmers and producers across the developing world. However, we know that much more needs to be done.

“Issues like gender inequality, child labour, modern slavery and climate change are entrenched in a global system of trade that is still rigged against farmers and workers. To tackle these challenges, we must work together.”

Fletcher continued: “Consumers aren’t aware of the issues that exist. Those that are find it difficult to make informed choices due to the varying schemes which retailers and brands support, with the most vulnerable in our food chain paying the greatest price for this confusion. There’s clearly more work to be done in helping everyone understand exactly what Fairtrade stands for. That means ending the proliferation of ethical labels and putting our full weight behind a conversation about global fairness.”

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