The focus of this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight is cocoa, women and living income. Margaret McGowan reflects on the effects of the cocoa price crisis.
Many farmers, men and women, are underpaid and so exploited that they can’t earn enough for the basics most of us would take for granted - such as education, housing and food - simply because they don’t earn a living income. Women’s situation is worse because they are often overlooked and under-represented. They can often receive even less money for their crop.
It is more important than ever, therefore, to remember why Fairtrade is so important. It can’t solve everything, but we must fight the injustice at the heart of the multibillion-pound chocolate industry.
Fairtrade Fortnight, from February 25 to March 11, this year themed
‘She Deserves a Living Income’, highlights the plight of women cocoa farmers.
In West Africa, £1.86 is a living income. Currently, a typical cocoa farmer in Cote d’Ivoire lives on around 74p a day. Almost all cocoa farmers in West Africa live in poverty. For the women the situation is even worse. Fairtrade’s three-year campaign hopes to encourage everyone in the cocoa sector, from consumers and businesses to governments, to play their part in making a living income a reality for cocoa farmers.
Pope Francis has condemned modern-day slavery of 11 million men, women and children and urges us to action.
Speaking to consumers, he said “… we are tempted to select items which may well have been produced by exploiting others. Some of us, out of indifference, or financial reason or because we are caught up in our daily concerns, close our eyes to this. Others, however, decide to do something about it.”
He added, “I urgently appeal to all men and women of good will … not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the sufferings of our brothers and sisters…The globalization of indifference … requires all of us to forge a new worldwide solidarity and fraternity capable of giving them new hope and helping them to advance.”
Fairtrade offers a powerful response to Francis’ challenge to “do something”. Independent inspectors certify that Fair Trade products are free from exploitation. The Fairtrade logo ensures just wages and safe working conditions that combat poverty.
When we make the conscious choice to purchase Fairtrade items, we put Catholic social teaching values into action, working to realise our vision of economic justice.
Brexit means our trade rules will be rewritten and new trade deals negotiated. Big changes ahead will affect not only us but also millions of farmers and workers from the world’s poorest countries who rely on trading with us. The Trade and Customs Bill returned to parliament last July. Almost 3,000 Fairtrade supporters emailed their MPs before the third reading, asking them to vote to amend the Trade Bill to include a democratic and transparent process for negotiating our future trade deals. It was close, but sadly the amendment lost by 30 votes.
The future is unclear, but let’s work with the Fairtrade Foundation and activists to get the best possible outcome for producers and workers in developing countries.