Anna Clayton – FoodFutures coordinator and a writer/ researcher at Ethical Consumer Magazine – explores the idea of fair trade.

The idea of fair trade is often linked with the Fairtrade label – a certification scheme built around the idea of providing a fairer deal for farmers in economically poorer countries. These countries are often ex-colonies, which were exploited (and still widely are) for ‘cash crops’ including tea, coffee, cocoa, sugar and cotton. This imbalance in relationships between countries is stark, and the need to address it is obvious.

Although Fairtrade is an initiative that consumers can easily engage with, it does not address all the unfair issues linked to food.

For FoodFutures, fair trade means paying people at all stages of the food supply chain a decent amount – a living wage- and valuing the work that goes into producing and distributing food. It means no one (including other animals) is exploited. We apply this notion of fair trade to both global trading relationships and those found here in the UK.
Examples of fair trade can be found among mission driven businesses, food co-operatives, veg box schemes, farmers’ markets and local food distribution hubs – with direct relationships being built between producers, retailers and eaters; supply chains shortened and a living wage paid to all.
We believe organisations – whether a food businesses, food bank, school or charity – can be designed in such a way as to increase the capacity of the communities they work with and operate in. For example, they can strengthen local economies by trading with other local businesses and by creating secure, well paid and fulfilling jobs. They can also involve all sorts of people in the production, trading and celebration of food by designing equity into how they operate and develop.
Unfortunately many examples of unfair trade are currently found within our industrial food system.
For example, supermarkets have played a big part in pushing down prices of food and what is paid to suppliers as they compete to dominate the market, and boost their own executive pay and profits.
A Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) was introduced in 2013, as a regulator of the UK’s ten biggest supermarkets. It quickly found evidence of unfair trade in the supply chain, including unexpected costs and massive amounts of waste being created through cancelling orders at the last minute, or asking suppliers to pay unexplained fees.
As FoodFutures shapes our local food strategy for North Lancashire, we invite different perspectives of ‘fairness’ and what these mean for our vision of a “thriving local food system that is healthy, resilient and fair”.
To feed into our 10 year strategy work visit: https://foodfutures.org.uk/10-year-strategy

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