Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) has expressed concern at the announcement by Sainsbury’s supermarket in the UK that it will move away from the well-known Fairtrade mark for its own brand tea. Concern has also been expressed that the supermarket – and other supermarkets in the UK – plan to move away from Fairtrade certification for other products, including coffee.
While Sainsbury’s has said the ‘fairly traded’ scheme it will trial for its tea will operate in a similar way to Fairtrade, small scale producers say they are concerned that they will lose control over how the money made from their goods can be spent.
The Fairtrade mark guarantees that producers receive a guaranteed minimum price for their goods alongside an additional premium, which communities spend on improving their living conditions.
A big difference with Sainsbury’s proposed scheme is that, while the supermarket says it would continue to pay the social premium, the Sainsbury’s Foundation would decide how it is spent, rather than the communities themselves. Producers would have to apply to the Sainsbury’s foundations for grants to access the premium.
Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy at CAFOD, says Sainsbury’s has not explained how small-scale farmers would be better off under the new proposed scheme than with the current Fairtrade mark. He said: “We are concerned that this new pilot scheme will not meet the rigorous and important standards set by Fairtrade, which people can recognise on their shelves through the Fairtrade Mark.
“Taking control of the premium out of the producers’ hands can never be the right thing to do. Our supporters look for the Fairtrade Mark because they believe in supporting poor farmers around the world. Sainsbury’s has previously been a leading light on enabling them to do this and we urge them not to move away from this.”
CAFOD co-founded the Fairtrade Foundation in 1992 alongside Christian Aid, Oxfam, Traidcraft and others, and the Catholic community has since shown enormous support for the Fairtrade scheme, with over 500 parishes across England and Wales now certified as Fairtrade. The Fairtrade Foundation has said 229,000 farmers would be affected by Sainsbury’s proposed change.
CAFOD has joined with other organisations to send a letter to Sainsbury’s CEO, asking him to urgently review and reconsider the supermarket’s plans.
The letter can be found on the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development’s website.