October 2010

I attended an energetic and enjoyable Fairtrade supporters conference put on by the Fairtrade Foundation on Saturday.

It felt to me like it had really built on the success of last year's conference, with more reflection and honesty about difficult issues, and lots of useful information being shared.

Most of all, it's great to have so many of the brilliant campaigners from around the Fairtrade movement gathered together in one place.

I enjoyed the contrast of watching Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, and Andrew Ethuru, a Kenyan producer director of Cafédirect, speak one after the other in the plenary session.

Caroline talks very quickly, her words tumbling out passionately and eloquently, as she drew our attention to the big picture, the need to shift from a world based on relentless economic growth, to one that increases human well being.

She highlighted the fact that although DFID's overall budget isn't being cut, big changes are being made, for example big cuts in funding for development awareness, and for policy work, in other words less focus on tackling underlying causes.

Andrew Ethuru on the other hand spoke with a more measured pace, taking his time, and building up gradually to an impassioned conclusion. Andrew is chairman of the Michimikuru tea co-operative's Fairtrade Premium committee in Kenya, their tea goes into Cafédirect's 'Everyday Tea' range.

Andrew spoke of the challenge now for Michimukuru, which is that even as overall sales of Fairtrade tea are growing, Michimikuru’s Fairtrade sales are declining. His warning was that market share for small producers is shrinking as multinationals with big tea estates move into mass market Fairtrade tea.

"The question we have to ask ourselves is," he said, "has Fairtrade been hijacked, because there is big money there?"

He asserted that at the heart of Fairtrade should be small producers, small farms, and labour-intensive high-quality production.

Good news for Fairtrade cocoa farmers.

FLO (Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International), the standards setting body for the Fairtrade Mark, have announced new, higher prices for Fairtrade cocoa, which will kick in on 1st January 2011.

The Fairtrade minimum price for cocoa will increase from $1,600 a tonne to $2,000 a tonne. The Fairtrade premium will increase from $150 a tonne to $200 a tonne.

The new Fairtrade minimum price is not immediately relevant, as cocoa prices are well above it, currently at around $2,800 a tonne, although prices are starting to fall again as experts predict an end to the production deficits of recent years.

But FLO expects cocoa farmer organisations to reap at least $10m in Fairtrade premium payments in 2011.