Since Fairtrade first began certifying flowers in 2001, consumers have been eager to brighten someone’s day with Fairtrade roses and other Fairtrade cut flowers. Most of these come from East Africa, which is a prominent production hub for the global flower industry. Fairtrade Standards also cover other plants like poinsettias, geraniums or potted chrysanthemums.
Most flowers and plants are grown on large estates. As a result they are one of the only Fairtrade products to be exclusively sourced from plantations with hired workers, and not small-scale farmers. Fairtrade’s Hired Labour Standard establishes criteria that aim to improve working conditions on plantations and gives workers a stronger voice with plantation management.
Fairtrade Flower Facts
Flowers and plants were the first non-food product certified by Fairtrade.
55 Fairtrade hired labour organizations represent 48,500 flower workers in eight countries, according to the 2015 Fairtrade Monitoring and Impact Report.
Almost all Fairtrade flowers come from East African countries, namely from Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Uganda. Ecuador, El Salvador and Sri Lanka also have Fairtrade certified flower plantations.
In 2013-14, 640 million flower stems were sold on Fairtrade terms and workers received €5.6 million in Fairtrade Premium payments. They chose to invest 33 percent of this sum in education projects.
Since 2014, Fairtrade also certifies plants from propagation farms. On these farms, Fairtrade workers cultivate mother plants and harvest cuttings from them. These young plants can then be sold to Fairtrade certified traders, who continue growing them in plant nurseries and market gardens that are located closer to consumer markets.
Fairtrade Impact for Flower and Plant Workers
Fairtrade certification has had major benefits for workers on flower and plant plantations. Officially binding contracts are the norm on certified plantations, while this is still quite rare on non-certified plantations. Fairtrade plantation workers also possess more knowledge about their individual and collective rights than workers on non-certified farms.
While pesticide use is a fact of life in the flower and plant industry, the Fairtrade Standards prohibit the use of the worst kind of pesticides. It is also required that workers are provided proper protection equipment, are trained in pesticide handling, and receive regular medical check-ups when working with pesticides.
Due to abundant heat and sunlight that prevail in East Africa and Latin America, Fairtrade flowers are grown in greenhouses that are heated and lit naturally, requiring less energy input than if this was done artificially. Fairtrade encourages the use of methods that minimize the amount of water needed for cultivating flowers and plants, and Fairtrade projects often involve ways to increase water efficiency.
Flowers and plants are one of the few Fairtrade products that do not have a Fairtrade Minimum Price. Flowers and plants are fresh products with a highly flexible pricing, which makes it difficult to establish a long-term Minimum Price. The lack of a Minimum Price is balanced with a higher Fairtrade Premium, one of the highest in the Fairtrade system. Currently it ranks at ten percent of the commercial sales price negotiated between plantations and traders. Workers can use these payments to invest in education, community infrastructure and workers’ rights trainings.
To learn more about Fairtrade's impact, have a look at our Impact and Research section.
Challenges for Flower and Plant Workers
Since starting flower and plant certification in 2001, Fairtrade has worked hard to improve the life of workers in the flower and plant industry in least developed and developing countries. However, there are still many challenges. One prominent issue remains the right of workers to organize themselves in representative associations and to acquire bargaining skills to negotiate improved working conditions.
Most workers in the flower and plant industry receive very low wages. Even though Fairtrade Standards require that workers receive at least the national minimum or the regional average wage, they still face significant economic challenges. Fairtrade works with several partners to establish regional living wage benchmarks which will help workers to push for higher incomes. Click here to learn more about Fairtrade’s efforts to establish living wages.
In addition, Fairtrade flowers and plants from Africa, Asia and South America compete with flower and plant producers from Northern countries, like the Netherlands and the United States. Unlike other Fairtrade products, such as coffee or chocolate, flowers and plants can be grown in regions where also most of the sales take place. This competition can make access to northern markets difficult for Fairtrade producers.
General Flower and Plant Facts
The conditions for flowers in East Africa and Latin American countries near the equator are generally ideal for flower cultivation. Flowers need at least ten hours of daylight and consistent humidity, which can be found constantly in many areas of these regions.
Flowers grown in artificially heated and lit greenhouses in temperate countries, such as the Netherlands, have on average a larger carbon footprint than flowers grown in natural greenhouses in tropical areas, even when transport is taken into account.
For the price of cultivating two hectares of flowers in the Netherlands, six hectares can be cultivated in Kenya.
After cutting, flowers have to be cooled consistently and stored at 10-15 degrees to maintain their beauty and full value.
Since flowers are highly perishable, the industry depends to a large extent on air freight. However, trials with sea shipments have recently begun.
Recent Fairtrade News on Flowers
Fairtrade urgently calls for the EU and Kenyan government to find a solution which guarantees continued duty-free access for Kenyan cut flower imports, to protect the livelihoods of thousands of Kenyan flower workers and their...
Grounded firmly in the daily reality of Fairtrade workers across the globe, the new Standard offers greater support for freedom of association, important steps toward living wages, greater autonomy in decision-making and more.
Buying and Selling Fairtrade
Fairtrade products are sold in over 130 countries. For more information on Fairtrade near you, visit Fairtrade Near You or select one of the countries in blue on the map below. If you’re interested in selling Fairtrade or sourcing Fairtrade products in your country, see our information about selling Fairtrade.
Find Fairtrade Minimum Prices and Premiums