Impact of certification depends also on sales

Fairtrade is built on the idea of strengthening farmers’ and workers’ say and livelihoods in global supply chains. Independent research shows that Fairtrade does indeed advance these goals.

According to a systematic review of 151 academic articles and other quantitative and qualitative studies of Fairtrade’s outputs, outcomes and impact *, research shows that Fairtrade:

• strengthens smallholder farmers’ cooperatives - their organisational capacity and, in particular, representation and democracy

• improves farmers’ income, wellbeing and resilience

• improves workers’ health and safety, payment terms and job satisfaction

• enhances women’s representation and participation and, especially at plantations, equality of pay

• raises consumers’ awareness, commitment and willingness to pay for fair and sustainable consumption

The impact is, however, not equal in all commodities, environments or producer organisations. One key reason is that Fairtrade certified production exceeds demand. So, farmers that follow the Fairtrade criteria typically get Fairtrade Minimum Prices and Premiums for part of their yields only and need to sell the rest on conventional markets.

For example, certified coffee farms sell, on average, almost three-quarters of their produce on conventional markets. The same goes for two-fifths of bananas, almost two-thirds of cocoa and sugar, and over nine-tenths of tea.

It’s natural to have some difference between production and Fairtrade sales levels. Producers may choose to sell their best quality produce on niche markets. Some produce may be sold locally, to generate quick income, because quality is not high enough for international markets or for a number of other reasons. Nevertheless, the gaps are large.

* Jodrell, David and Kaoukji, Dwan. (forthcoming) May 2021. “Tracing Fairtrade’s Impact: a review of recent evidence.” Fairtrade International, DBG Consulting.