CAFOD dismayed by Sainsbury’s move away from Fairtrade

6 July 2017

CAFOD and Oxfam Fairtrade campaigners (Andy Aitchison / Oxfam)

CAFOD and Oxfam Fairtrade campaigners

CAFOD has warned Sainsbury’s not to ditch the Fairtrade mark on their own-brand tea, at the supermarket’s annual meeting.

Campaigners dressed up as tea bags and brought a giant teapot with a message for shareholders at Sainsbury’s. Fairtrade tea empowers farmers and producers in some of the world’s poorest communities. So their message was simple: don’t ditch Fairtrade tea.

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.

Fairtrade questions asked at Sainsbury's AGM

Watch this recording of our live broadcast from Sainsbury's AGM, where we raised questions about the move away from Fairtrade tea:

Fairtrade farmers speak out

Fairtrade factbox

Fairtrade tea sales globally earned an estimated £5 million in Fairtrade cash bonuses for certified farmers and workers.

A cash bonus of less than 10% on the price of Sainsbury’s Fairtrade tea goes to tea farmers and producers in Malawi, Rwanda and Kenya, funding better healthcare and schools and helping them improve tea production.  

The Fairtrade mark means 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. Over 80,000 people have signed a petition asking Sainsbury's to reconsider their plans. 

A quarter of a million African farmers have protested these changes in an open letter to Sainsbury’s. They said, “As producers we believe that we have the best understanding of our local context and what is needed to make our businesses and communities thrive. Our destiny must be kept in our hands.”

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Catholic support for Fairtrade mark

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.

Neil 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.

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