Fairtrade Fortnight is the highlight of the year for the Fairtrade movement in the UK and in 2019 it will run from Monday 25 February until Sunday 10 March. Fairtrade is also celebrating 25 years of Fairtrade in the UK.
To celebrate we sat down with Subindu Garkhel who is the Cotton and Textiles Lead at the Fairtrade Foundation to ask a few questions about this year’s campaign:
Why is there a different date for Fairtrade Fortnight in the UK and a different date for Fairtrade Fortnight in the Australia?
Each National Fairtrade Organisation sets their own events calendar and schedule and have autonomy to decide when to hold Fairtrade Fortnight. The decision is made based on several factors including other national events and market-specific information – these will vary between different countries, hence the difference in the scheduling of the UK Fortnight and the Australian Fortnight.
Why is Fairtrade Certification important in the clothing industry?
Cotton farmers are at the very beginning of the supply and are often forgotten when we talk about sustainability issues in the fashion sector. As many as 100m rural households – 90 percent of them in developing countries – are directly engaged in cotton production.
With high levels of illiteracy and limited space to farm, many cotton farmers live below the poverty line and are dependent on middle men or ‘ginners’ who often buy their cotton at prices below the cost of production.
Rising production costs, fluctuating market prices, decreasing yields and climate change are daily challenges, along with the rising cost and availability of food . In West Africa, a typical cotton farmer’s smallholding of 2-5 hectares must provide enough income to cover basic needs such as food, healthcare, school fees and seeds and tools. Even a small fall in cotton prices can have serious implications for a farmer’s ability to meet these needs. In India many farmers are seriously indebted because of the high-interest loans needed to purchase fertilisers and other farming tools and have in some cases, in desperation, resorted to ending their lives. The notorious complexity of the cotton and textile supply chain means that farmers have little power to negotiate with others in the chain to secure better prices.
While other certification schemes aim to protect the environment or enable companies to trace their products, Fairtrade certification is unique in being the only scheme whose primary aim is to tackle poverty through better terms of trade and giving farmers greater power within their trading relationships.
Fairtrade supports farmers with fairer, more stable prices and additional income to invest in infrastructure, training, farm equipment and business improvements as well as programmes such as healthcare, clean water and education that contribute to flourishing communities. Fairtrade supports farmers in managing the environmental and health risks from cotton production and in building stronger organisations with increased bargaining power and a more active role in global supply chains.
How many clothing brands worldwide are certified Fairtrade?
There are about 250-300 brands globally that use Fairtrade Cotton
Fairtrade Fortnight UK is coming up shortly, tell us what you are focusing on this year?
Our focus for this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight is on the people, particularly the women, who grow cocoa. Cocoa farmers work gruelling days but don’t earn enough to provide the basics for their families, or give opportunities to their children. The world cocoa price has collapsed in recent years, making these farmers even poorer than they were before. The living income in the Cote D’Ivoire is £1.86 per day, yet a typical farmer earns approximately 74p. Women often carry the greatest burden – they work in the fields, look after children, carry water and do many other tasks to bring the crop to market, often with fewer rights than men.
Our #SheDeserves campaign for Fairtrade Fortnight seeks to highlight that, whilst we have made progress over the past 25 years (it’s our 25th anniversary this year since products with the FAIRTRADE Mark first appeared on shelves in the UK!), there is still much more to be done to help poor farmers in developing countries that grow the products we love to eat – like chocolate! We need companies, governments, retailers and consumers to take action to address the living income gap – this year we are asking people to choose and buy more Fairtrade products and to join us in raising awareness of these issues. We also have a petition to the UK government, asking them to ensure that poverty reduction is prioritised in our trade with developing countries. For more information onour Fairtrade Fortnight campaign in the UK, and for ways to get involved, please visit http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/Fortnight
Are there any events happening in the UK that people can attend and support?
We are hosting the world’s first Secret Hot Chocolate Salon – passers-by who want to learn about the ‘beans behind the bar’ can enter a West-African themed speakeasy-style café (which will be hidden and accessed through a revolving wall in an unassuming East London newsagents!). Visitors will then enjoy some delicious Fairtrade hot chocolates created by celebrity chefs Melissa Hemsley, Tess Ward and Tom Hunt. Each hot chocolate will be priced at £1.86 – the cost of a day’s living income for a cocoa farmer. This is set to be an enjoyable, interactive and unique experience – any of your customers based in London should definitely pop down! More details will be released nearer the time.
We recently read your blog 10 facts about Organic Cotton – it’s crazy to think only 13% off the worlds cotton is sustainable, why is it so low?
Not enough businesses care about sustainable cotton. The awareness has definitely increased and we are also seeing increasing public commitment from businesses due to various campaigns and pressure from NGOs and government.
Tell us about Cotton Gin (we are in for a martini or two with this one!)
Ginning is the process where the seed is separated from the cotton boll and then the fibre is sent for spinning into yarn. The conditions of the gins are usually very poor from both health & safety as well as wages perspective.
What is Fairtrade’s strategy and specific objectives for Fairtrade cotton?
Our main focus remains to support farmers to get more access to markets and sell more cotton on Fairtrade terms so that they can get more benefit of the Fairtrade Minimum price and premium. For West Africa, where the challenges are even higher, we are setting up a sourcing coalition. http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/Media-Centre/News/September-2018/West-African-Cotton-Sourcing-Coalition
For more information visit: