Covid-19: Time to reset the business?

Though far from over, the COVID-19 global pandemic’s impact on farming communities around the world cannot be overstated.

Fallout from cancelled orders, halted cargo links, delayed payments and increased costs of production, as well as increased burdens on health care facilities and children’s wellbeing, have already affected poor, rural communities harshly. The stresses are increasing extreme poverty and raising the risks of child labour, forced labour and other serious violations of human rights.

To offer relief and help farmers build their resilience, Fairtrade has raised and started distributing 15 million Euros to communities. It has also published guidance for traders, farming communities, businesses and governments, and allowed a flexible use of Fairtrade Premiums.

On plantations, trade unions and worker committees have been distributing food, supplies and protective equipment and ensuring that health and safety guidelines protect workers. Farmer cooperatives and organisations are playing similar roles with smallholder farms and communities.

COVID 19 has also brought changes in auditing. On-site audits have been interrupted for many months. FLOCERT has adapted their ways of working and adopted remote auditing methods where needed. Still, this means that in-person observations and worker and farmer interviews are not happening consistently. This makes it more difficult to track and follow up on human rights impacts.

Hopefully this dark cloud will also have a silver lining in the long term.

“We have an opportunity to hit the ‘reset’ button. To take a look at business practices and policies, re-examine related thinking and intents and chart a new way towards more resilient and sustainable business and societies” urges Peter Kettler, Fairtrade’s Senior Coffee Manager.

“The question is, will we take that opportunity?”