27 Mar 2020

Fairtrade Together: COVID-19 Briefing

Fairtrade is gathering updates from around the world about how COVID-19 is affecting producer organizations, family farmers, and workers.

Banana Fairtrade Ecuador COVID19 870
A banana producer organization in Ecuador has adapted its washing station to protect workers. A group of Fairtrade producer organizations in the El Oro region is providing surplus crop to families in their community.

Here is some of the information we have from Fairtrade producer organizations and their market situations.

The flower market in Africa, especially Kenya, is facing unprecedented challenges due to the inability to ship their goods to Europe via commercial airlines, which have stopped their routes. As a result, workers -- whose livelihoods are already fragile -- are being laid off or furloughed with uncertainty. Similar issues are facing flower farms in Ecuador.

Retail sales of bananas, coffee, and cocoa are still strong, but overall product sales numbers are suffering due to the lack of out-of-home sales from cafes and restaurants. Worldwide, shipping containers are in short supply, making supply chain continuity difficult.

While it is easy to get overwhelmed with all of the uncertainty in the world right now, there are many “bright lights” happening amongst producer organizations and their members and workers:

  • In Ecuador, banana producers are sharing the bananas left over from their production with their local communities, where food is scarce.
  • Sports ball producers in Pakistan have sewn face masks for their communities from cotton reserves in their factories.
  • A wine producer in South Africa has provided sanitizer for all their workers’ homes.

And, within the Fairtrade system, we are acting quickly to ensure producer organizations are able to respond to the needs of their members.

Today, Fairtrade International announced that certified producer organizations can use their Fairtrade Premium more flexibly during this time. The Premium is an extra sum on top of selling price that producer organizations earn on every Fairtrade sale, and invest in projects of their choice to benefit their businesses and communities.

The changes, approved by Fairtrade’s multi-stakeholder Standards Committee, include:

  • The worker-run Fairtrade Premium Committees of certified plantations may, in agreement with the company, distribute up to 100 percent of their Fairtrade Premium funds as direct cash distributions to workers. (The normal guideline is 20 percent, or 50 percent in certain circumstances.) In addition, the committees do not need to make a formal request to the certification body to do so. In-kind disbursements of consumable goods are also possible. The Fairtrade Premium may also be used to minimize the spread of disease, e.g. to purchase and distribute face masks or implement hygiene campaigns.
  • Small-scale producer organizations can invest Fairtrade Premium to minimize the spread of the disease and/or to mitigate any potential negative effects on farmers, workers, and their communities, without prior approval at the organization’s annual General Assembly.

The official interpretations and requirements can be found on the Fairtrade International website.

Fairtrade is reviewing the needs of producers and workers on a regular basis and will continue to determine how we can act to support them during this time.