Premium allows producers to invest in business and community projects including healthcare, education, and environmental initiatives

The Fairtrade Foundation has said that UK shoppers generated approximately £28m in Fairtrade Premium last year.

Fairtrade bananas

Producers use the premium to invest in business and community projects of their choice including healthcare, education, and environmental initiatives.

Encouraging progress was made in sales of Fairtrade fresh vegetables, the Foundation noted, with retail sales up 15 per cent.

The UK ranks as the largest market for Fairtrade bananas, processed and fruit juices, herbs and spices, sugar, tea and wine globally, according to Fairtrade International’s latest annual reporting.

There are now almost 5,000 Fairtrade products available to buy in the UK, and all major retailers and many brands are actively engaged, the Foundation continued.

Total incoming resources to the Foundation in 2023 increased by 11 per cent to £13.4m from £12.8m in 2022.

Challenging year

“2023 was a very challenging year for the UK economy, following the pandemic, global inflation and the cost-of-living crisis and the impact of the climate crisis on supply chains,” said Michael Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation.

”In this climate, Fairtrade sales volumes continued to hold up well thanks to the support of shoppers and businesses. This is very encouraging to see and is testament to the fact that UK shoppers do not trade down on their values when times are tough.”

Research conducted by Kantar across 2023 showed 88 per cent of people were aware of the Fairtrade Mark, 79 per cent trusted the Fairtrade Mark, 78 per cent cared about Fairtrade and 28 per cent actively chose Fairtrade products ‘always’ or ‘often’, despite the cost-of-living crisis.

Public support for Fairtrade remained very high, with new data revealing that 43 per cent of people preferred to purchase products labelled as Fairtrade over the closest alternative, when given the choice, and were increasingly associating it with ‘reducing the impact of farming on the environment’ and ‘addressing gender inequality by empowering women farmers’, two areas where Fairtrade has been lesser known historically.

Reflecting on Fairtrade’s 30 years of impact, a study conducted this year showed that over three quarters of people (77 per cent) agreed that as a society we now cared more about ethical issues than when Fairtrade began in 1994. 

People also felt more connected with producers who grow our food overseas (56 per cent agreeing with this), and as individuals, people cared more today about the fairness behind their food (65 per cent agreeing with this).

“As we celebrate our 30th anniversary and reflect on our collective progress working with farmers and workers, businesses and consumers, it’s clear that together we have taken enormous strides in supporting millions of Fairtrade producers to secure a better deal,” Gidney continued.

”But the world feels more insecure than it did in the 1990s,” he said. “We are seeing more frequently how shocks in one part the world can cause empty shelves and food price inflation at home. 

”We are as ambitious for change in our 30th year as we were when we began, and we can see that we need, all of us, to create even greater change at pace in the face of today’s challenges,” he noted.

Sustainability initiatives

The Fairtrade Foundation said it had introduced a series of first-of-its-kind sustainability initiatives in 2023 to drive ”real and lasting change” for farmers and workers in low-income countries.

Shared Impact aims to encourage collaboration within the UK grocery sector by bringing retailers together to pool their new Fairtrade sourcing commitments to a targeted group of farming cooperatives.

Expanding on the existing way Fairtrade works with its retail partners, the new model allows businesses to target salient risks in their supply chain.

Meanwhile, new frameworks and Fairtrade Reference Prices allow businesses to take up their shared responsibility to pay living incomes, living wages and long-term contracts that are driving transformative change in cocoa, coffee and banana supply chains.

The charity has warned for some time that the double crisis of climate change and inflation has been hitting farming communities overseas very hard.

It said there had never been a more pressing need for fair prices and fair pay, for access to their rights and a sustainable route out of poverty, and its business partners agreed.

“We need to urgently focus in on credible collaborative solutions to the challenges farmers face,” Gidney added. ”We live in a world where the warming climate is threatening the future of staple crops like cocoa, bananas and coffee.

”The more co-operation and power-sharing, the more supply chains can be strengthened. This is increasingly important as the UK becomes more food insecure.”