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Is the Coffee Industry Guilty of Exploitation?

Is the Coffee Industry Guilty of Exploitation?

by Peter d’Angremond of Max Havelaar Foundation

The price for Arabica coffee beans has plummeted in recent weeks to below production costs, jeopardising the livelihoods of 25 million coffee farming families worldwide. Peter d’Angremond of Max Havelaar Foundation discusses the impact of the price crash and what we must do now to protect coffee farmers.

Coffee farmers rang the alarm bell this week due to the price of coffee beans dropping to a dramatic low. This threatens the already fragile existence of 25 million farming families worldwide. We can no longer turn a blind eye to what is happening.

This week, Brazil and Colombia, who together produce half of the world’s coffee, published a affirming the fact that farmers are forced to sell their coffee far below cost price.

The disastrous situation in the coffee sector is confirmed by recent figures. At the end of 2016, the price of Arabica coffee on the New York Stock Exchange was $1.55 per pound (454 grams). Since then the price has dropped further to a dramatic low point this week of less than one dollar per pound. Due to the extreme decline of 30% in price, farmers could be facing an annual loss of more than 11 billion dollars of income. No development programme can bridge this gap.

Sustainability is on everyone’s lips these days and often we think we are doing a good job. The coffee-producing countries state that while many large multinational companies do promote and act on sustainability, these activities are completely negated by their commercial practices. The recently released report ‘Coffee Barometer‘ comes to the same conclusion. Of the total value of coffee (around 200 billion dollars in 2015), only 10% stays in the countries of origin. In total, large companies spend approximately 350 million dollars a year on sustainability. Set against the income loss of 11 billion dollars, this is a drop in the ocean.

FOR 3 QUARTERS OF ALL PACKS OF COFFEE IN THE UK SUPERMARKET, NO PRICE SECURITY IS OFFERED FOR COFFEE FARMERS.

By paying prices that are too low, the coffee industry is at least partly responsible for human rights issues such as poverty, child labour, poor working conditions as well as environmental damage. In sustainability discussions, talking about a ‘decent price’ is taboo. Industry largely refuses to commit to decent prices for farmers.

In the UK, Fairtrade, which is the only certification mark that requires a minimum price of coffee buyers ($1.40 per pound), has a market share of around 25%. This means that for 3 quarters of all packs of coffee in the UK supermarket, no price security is offered for coffee farmers. They are then dependent on the vagaries of the market.

It is time that coffee brands, supermarkets and the industry take structural responsibility by adjusting their purchasing policy.

And do we, as consumers, want to be involved in the exploitation of coffee farmers by buying their products?

Events Fairtrade Fortnight Featured News Supporters

Fairtrade Fortnight 2018

 

“FAIRTRADE—MEN’S BIG BREAKFAST 50”

Saturday 24 February, 8.30 a.m. @ Les Cotils.

Mon 26 Feb 2018 “Come on in ….. and open more doors to Fairtrade”

7.30 p.m. Professor Kevin Bales CMG, an expert on modern day slavery, speaking at a special evening to launch Fairtrade Fortnight 2018 at Les Cotils.

Free admission, but you are requested to reserve your place by emailing info@fairtradeguernsey.com

Les Rocquettes Hotel, Les Gravees, St Peter Port offering a “Special Fairtrade Menu” for the Fortnight.

Fairtrade Menu 2018 Les Rocquettes Hotel

Sat 3 March

Fairtrade Guernsey Fundraising Quiz. 7.00 p.m. at St Martin’s Community Centre

Fri 9 March

Profile Profile Mahyana Updated

Fairtrade visitors arrive. Mahyana Sari, the visiting producer is the secretary of the Arinagata Cooperative, who produce coffee in Sumatra, Indonesia.

Fairtrade Fortnight

Fairtrade Fortnight is an action-packed highlight of the year, when campaigners, businesses, schools and places of worship show their support for the farmers and workers who grow our food in developing countries.

Fairtrade Fortnight 2018: Monday 26 February – Sunday 11 March

‘For hundreds of years, we were taught to serve, to be workers. Now with Fairtrade, we are entrepreneurs’

Marcial Quintero, member of Coobana, a Fairtrade banana co-operative in Panama.

It’s a scandalous reality that millions of farmers and workers are still being ripped off despite working hard to provide the products we love. Unfairness in global trade is rooted in centuries of exploitation.

Yet across the globe, Marcial and hard-working producers like him are unravelling this legacy. They’re fighting for a fair deal, supported by Fairtrade, earning their way out of poverty and transforming their communities.

Together we’re stronger, and more people choosing, sharing and shouting about Fairtrade in the UK means more power to producers like Marcial to break the stranglehold of poverty prices.

There’s never been a more important time to stand with producers through Fairtrade – to protect the progress you’ve achieved alongside them, and to welcome more people – supporters, producers, businesses – into Fairtrade.

This Fairtrade Fortnight, stand with farmers like Marcial to close the door on exploitation, and welcome more people into Fairtrade.

‘Before joining Fairtrade we didn’t see any benefits, development or profit. The price we received per box wasn’t enough to cover our costs – and for 17 years it didn’t change. Since starting with Fairtrade, it’s made a mega-revolution in our lives.’ Marcial Quintero, Coobana

Featured Products

Major names pledge to use 100% sustainable cotton by 2025

23 more of the world’s most renowned clothing and textile companies, including Burberry, Adidas, Kathmandu and Timberland today pledged to use 100% sustainable cotton by 2025.
This initiative recognises several existing standards as delivering sustainable cotton: Organic, Fairtrade, Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Cotton Made in Africa and recycled cotton certified to an independently verifiable standard such as the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) or the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS). In addition, CottonConnect’s REEL programme and code provides a starting point for businesses aiming for greater sustainability in their cotton supply chain.
36 major brands and retailers have now signed up to the 100% by 2025 pledge, including four of Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s ten largest global apparel brands , and three of the top 10 UK clothing retailers. This announcement was made at the annual Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference, where more than 400 textile and apparel leaders have come together to discuss the most important sustainability issues facing the industry.
This pledge – called the sustainable cotton communiqué – demonstrates that there is a demand for more sustainable cotton, and the commitment made by companies will help to drive sustainable practices across the sector. In turn, this will help alleviate the environmental and social costs that are too often associated with cotton production, including the over-use of pesticides, the release of greenhouse gases, the depletion of local water sources and rising costs of production.
The brands that have committed to the 100% by 2025 pledge are: ASOS, EILEEN FISHER, Greenfibres, H&M, IKEA, Kering, Levi’s, Lindex, M&S, Nike, Sainsbury’s, F&F at Tesco, Woolworths, Adidas, A-Z, BikBOk, Burberry, Burton Snowboards, Carlings, Coyuchi, Cubus, Days like This, Dressmann, Hanky Panky, House of Fraser, Indigenous Designs, KappAhl, Kathmandu, Mantis World, Otto Group, prAna, SkunkFunk, Timberland, Urban, Volt and Wow.
Impact
There have been substantial gains made over the past few years in scaling the production of more sustainable forms of cotton, which is now higher than ever at over 3 million tonnes in 2016. However, companies are actively sourcing less than a fifth of this available sustainable cotton. In order for sustainable cotton to become standard business practice, the amount of sustainable cotton grown and bought must increase significantly. This pledge sends a signal to millions of producers that there is a real demand for a more sustainable approach to cotton production that reduces the environmental and social costs.
The companies that have pledged their support are at various stages on their journey to using sustainable cotton, with some already securing all of their cotton from sustainable sources. However, all are clear that collaboration across the sector is needed to bring about transformative change.
Quotes from selected companies and NGO representatives:
“The industry is awakening to the necessity of sustainably grown cotton. It is great to see additional brands joining this initiative to accelerate the momentum of cotton production in a way that will positively impact smallholder farmers, water quality and soil health.” La Rhea Pepper, Managing Director, Textile Exchange
“As a pioneer in organic cotton bedding, Coyuchi cares immensely about what our sheets, towels and apparel are made of and its greater impact on the environment and the hands that touch it from earth to factory to home. Coyuchi is excited to join the pledge and the growing momentum by likeminded brands committed to a more sustainable future.” Eileen Mockus, CEO, Coyuchi
“Burton has a responsibility to protect the people and playground that sustain our sport and lifestyle. We recognize that there are social and environmental costs associated with producing our products. We are continuously striving toward sustainability in our production practices, including the materials we source. Burton is proud to join other industry leaders in this pledge, which is aligned with our commitment to sourcing 100% sustainable cotton by 2020.” Donna Carpenter, CEO and Co-owner, Burton Snowboards
“It’s been a long journey to reach 100% organic cotton. Kudos to all the prAna employees & global supply chain partners who put in countless hours. We couldn’t be more ecstatic about this sustainability milestone!” Russ Hopcus, President, prAna
“House of Fraser supports the Sustainable Cotton Communiqué as part of our shift to sourcing sustainable cotton in our house branded fashion and homeware products. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate to scale the uptake of sustainable materials in fashion, and applaud HRH The Prince of Wales for his leadership.” Maria Hollins, Executive Director of Buying and Design, House of Fraser
“At Timberland, we strive to be Earthkeepers in everything we do and we recognize sustainable cotton sourcing as a major part of that goal. Studies have shown the positive social benefits to farming communities as well as the potential for these practices to sequester carbon into the soil. This is exciting work as we move beyond just minimizing environmental impacts to strategically creating real environmental and social benefits within the supply chain.” Zachary Angelini, Environmental Stewardship Manager, Timberland

This announcement, made at the annual Textile Exchange conference, follows the launch of the sustainable cotton communiqué at a high level meeting in May this year that was attended by HRH The Prince of Wales and organised by The Prince’s International Sustainability Unit (ISU) in collaboration with Marks & Spencer and The Soil Association (UK).
Information about cotton and sustainability
Cotton is the most abundantly produced natural fibre and its production supports the livelihoods of over 350 million people* . Despite its global importance, cotton production can be beset by a number of environmental and social challenges. Whilst cotton only covers 2.4% of the world’s arable land, it accounts for 6% of global pesticide use . With around 2,720 litres of water needed to make just one t-shirt, conventional cotton production is highly dependent on water . Higher temperatures and changing rainfall patterns caused by climate change are likely to cause severe water shortages in some areas, as well as increase the prevalence of pests and diseases, negatively affect yields. The challenges of the cotton sector are also social and economic, with cotton farmers and their dependents negatively impacted by the over-use of pesticides and petroleum based fertilizers, and rising costs of production and volatile market prices.
More information, This initiative recognises several existing standards as delivering sustainable cotton: Organic, Fairtrade, Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Cotton Made in Africa and recycled cotton certified to an independently verifiable standard such as the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) or the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS). In addition, CottonConnect’s REEL programme and code provides a starting point for businesses aiming for greater sustainability in their cotton supply chain.
*Fairtrade Foundation, Commodity Briefing: Cotton, 2015

Featured Products

Fairtrade Tea and Coffee for your workplace……

Fairtrade coffee beans

Are you a coffee connoisseur? Or do you just not care as long as it’s strong and fair? However you like your coffee, when you choose Fairtrade you know you’re supporting the farmers who grew the beans to build a better quality of life for their families and communities. And that’s not all. Did you know that Fairtrade coffee growers invest at least 25 percent of their Fairtrade Premium* in improving the productivity of their farms and the quality of their beans? For example, Fairtrade farmers at Nicaraguan co-operative CECOCAFEN have been investing their Premium in new tools, machinery and training to grow their internationally renowned coffee. They’ve learnt how to maintain the fertility of the rich volcanic soils, and have bought new drying and milling equipment which processes their harvested coffee beans more quickly and consistently so their quality and flavour can be preserved. They’ve also put Premium funds towards their own ‘cupping’ laboratory so their coffee can be taste profiled (a bit like wine!) and sampled before export, helping them to negotiate better prices for their beans.

Ivania    Coffee farmer Ivania Calderón Peralta explains what Fairtrade means to her: ‘In Nicaragua, coffee cultivation is fundamental to the economy. ‘However, volatile coffee prices and climate change make it difficult for a smallholder coffee farmer to make a living from coffee farming. Fairtrade has changed this. ‘Because of Fairtrade the lives and futures of smallholder coffee farmers are more secure.’

There are hundreds of types of Fairtrade coffee available to buy, including beans, roast and ground, instant, and even coffee pods. Speak to your supplier and give it a try!