Fairtrade bananas

The benefits of Fairtrade

How does Fairtrade work and what are the advantages? Here are just some of the benefits of buying Fairtrade.
  Published:  02 Mar 2017    |      3 minute read

Why buy Fairtrade?

There are currently millions of hardworking farmers in developing countries — producing the food that ends up in our shopping baskets — that are not being paid enough to support their families.

If we buy food products without thinking where they come from or who produced it we become part of the problem by feeding exploitation.

But by choosing Fairtrade products farmers get a better deal and a more stable income so that they can feed, educate and take care of their children.

When farmers sell their crops via Fairtrade cooperatives and plantations, they get more money to invest back into better farming methods, clean water and improving the health of their communities.

What does the Fairtrade Mark mean?

Fairtrade International is the most widely-recognised ethical label in the world.

The Mark means the product’s ingredients have been produced by small-scale farmer organisations that meet Fairtrade's social, economic and environmental standards.

These standards include protection of the environment, workers’ rights and the payment of the Fairtrade Minimum Price and an additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in business or community projects.

The aim is to use trade, not aid, to help small-scale farmers; one of the most marginalised groups in the world.

Fairtrade facts and figures

  • There are 1.65 million farmers and workers in Fairtrade certified producer organisations.
  • There are a total of 1,226 Fairtrade producer organisations in 74 countries.
  • A quarter of all workers in Fairtrade are women.
  • Farmer and worker organisations own 50% of the global Fairtrade system.
  • On plantations, 26% of workers spent their Fairtrade premiums on education.
  • The Fairtrade foods sold in the biggest quantities worldwide are bananas, coffee beans, sugar and cocoa beans.
  • However other Fairtrade products include wine, tea, cotton, flowers, rice, orange juice and gold. 

Fairtrade means fair wages for farmers

For most Fairtrade goods there is a Fairtrade minimum price which acts as an important safety net, protecting farmers from fluctuating market prices. This ensures farmers can earn and expect a stable income and plan for their future.

Fairtrade is the only certification scheme that offers such a unique minimum price protection for farmers.

In addition, a Fairtrade Premium is also paid into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use as they see fit — this could be on education or healthcare for their children, improving their business or building infrastructure such as roads and bridges for their community.

Fairtrade is fairer for the environment

To be Fairtrade certified organisations must conform to rigorous environmental standards

Farmers are encouraged to move towards organic production and:

  • Protect their local environment through minimal and safe use of agrochemicals.
  • Manage erosion problems and waste management properly.
  • Maintain soil fertility.
  • Avoid intentionally using genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
  • Continually monitor the impact they have on the environment and implement ways to keep on reducing it.

Fairtrade coffee benefits farmers and communities

Coffee farmers in Costa Rica have invested in ovens fuelled by the discarded coffee husks of the very beans they are roasting. 

This has reduced the number of trees cut down for firewood.

The Nicaraguan UCA cooperative has built a pre-school using the premium earned from its coffee. 

Fairtrade bans child labour

Fairtrade means zero-tolerance of child labour, and the organisation works to bring an end to such practices.

Children under 18 years old are banned from work that endangers them or their schooling. And children under 15 are not to be employed by Fairtrade organisations.

More Fairtrade benefits

  • Fairtrade provides access to, and oversees, loans to help producers invest. For example the UCA cooperative took out a loan to construct a drying mill for its coffee. The mill is now paying back the loan that built it and reducing processing costs.
  • Fairtrade can improve food security which is closely linked to economic growth, stable incomes and reduced risk and vulnerability. If a farmer has a better income it means he or she has more money to buy food and more money to invest in growing more crops. 
  • Fairtrade gives shoppers the opportunity to live and shop according to their principles and take action to support farmers and their families.
  • Fairtrade provides consumers with an opportunity to connect with the people who grow the produce we enjoy and need.

Did you know?

  • There are 4,500 Fairtrade certified products for sale in the UK, so it's well worth shopping around.
  • In 2016, the UK spent £1.64 billion on Fairtrade produce as Fairtrade bananas and coffee rose in popularity.
  • Ecuador and Costa Rica traditionally earn around 9% and 8% respectively of their total export earnings from bananas alone.
  • In 2015 more than half (55%) of Fairtrade bananas sold were organic, as were 59% of all Fairtrade coffee beans.

Fairtrade Fortnight runs in September and promotes products and the wider benefits of buying Fairtrade.