"Farmers and workers tell us they need Fair Trade more than ever."
On World Fair Trade Day 2020, campaigner, Angela Oakley, explored Fair Trade's role in protecting workers in the coronavirus emergency.
This is a shortened version of Angela’s blog that was originally published on the Scottish Fair Trade Forum’s website. Visit their website for the full piece and for more information about supporting Fair Trade in Scotland.
At a time when things are getting pretty tough, Fair Trade is giving protection to workers. Those in the Fair Trade system are in a stronger position to deal with the coronavirus emergency. The steps taken to give farmers and workers more income, premiums for investment and joint working in co-operatives give them better coping mechanisms. Yet again I am reminded of why we have campaigned for Fair Trade and why I am proud that Scotland is a Fair Trade Nation.
Let’s take a look at what is happening. To say the least, farmers and workers are facing an increasingly difficult time. Supply chains are disrupted and markets are disappearing fast in the lockdowns. For flower growers in East Africa, flights to carry produce to European markets are suspended, so tons of flowers are being dumped every day. In the clothing industry big brands are cancelling orders, which means there is no work in the factories and no pay for their workers. In India the lockdown means workers cannot attend the tea estates. The cost of production has gone up as farmers and workers need to find the resources they need to protect themselves.
Of course, Fair Trade cannot solve all these problems, but it eases the situation for farmers and workers.
The Fairtrade Minimum Price and the World Fair Trade Organization’s Fair Payment give stability and more income. Economically empowered communities are better able to mitigate risks and take protective action when an emergency arises.
The Fairtrade Premium, the extra sum earned by producer organisations, is being used to safeguard workers. Fairtrade International has issued new guidelines so that Fairtrade premiums can be used without delay to minimise the spread of the disease. Premiums can be used to purchase and distribute face masks and PPE and to spread the message about hygiene.
Community working, fostered by Fair Trade co-operatives, is key to weakening the impact of the virus. Local organisations are giving training and guidance on how farmers and workers can protect themselves.
In Ecuador, banana producers are sharing surplus bananas where food is short in the community. In Pakistan, Fairtrade sports ball producers have sewn face masks for local distribution. In South Africa, wine producers have provided sanitizer for workers’ homes. In Peru, WFTO Fair Trade craft makers are releasing emergency food and health funds in their communities.
Farmers are key workers
Farmers tell us they need Fairtrade now more than ever. They are key workers who are essential to our food supply. Remember, no farmer, no banana. The corona crisis has shown us the need for strong, resilient, sustainable food supplies and how important the principles of Fair Trade are in times of emergency.
The message is to stay at home, but live fair and buy fair, keeping simultaneously distant from, but in unison with, those we rely on.
By Angela Oakley, Fair Trade campaigner and member of the East Dunbartonshire Fair Trade Group.