Sweet talk at the African Fairtrade Convention

2 Nov 2012 11:35

Africa Fairtrade convention

by Richard Anstead, Head of Product Development, Fairtrade Foundation

Richard Anstead, Head of Product Development at the Fairtrade Foundation joins producers and businesses from all over Africa at the annual African Fairtrade Convention in Addis Ababa.

This year’s theme is Equal trade, equal development – Strengthening African producers’ role in the value chain.

I’m here early to represent the Fairtrade Foundation at meetings including coffee training by Oxfam-Wereldwinkels and the first meeting of Fairtrade Africa’s sugar network.

The sugar network has been hearing from producers, traders and labelling initiatives such as the Fairtrade Foundation. It’s how we work together as a global movement to increase the impact of Fairtrade on smallholder sugar farmers. Today smallholder co-ops in Malawi, Zambia, Mauritius, Mozambique and Swaziland are giving their views. Some groups have only just become Fairtrade certified and are still looking for their first Fairtrade buyer. Longer established groups are here too. They’ve been able to grow their organisations, invest in more sustainable production and in their communities.

One group, Medine Camp de Masque CCS in Mauritius, explained how they  increased their overall production from just over 17,000 metric tonnes in 2008 to almost 34,000 MT today. Although they do not sell all of this sugar as Fairtrade, with the support of the Fairtrade premium from sales to pioneering organisations such as Traidcraft, they have been able to increase members of the co-op from 338 to 448 leading to a positive impact on increasing numbers of farmers and their families.

A representative from Malawi demonstrated very clearly some of their challenges. Following the collapse of the national currency, the kwacha, in 2000, the currency was devalued by 600% and interest rates on loans reached 52%. The benefit of selling as Fairtrade into the UK and other markets has allowed them to start managing their loan and invest in increasing production as well as in education and healthcare in their communities.

Here in the UK, Fairtrade’s share of the retail bagged sugar market is currently 42%. The ambition is to get to 50% of retail market share so, the Fairtrade Foundation is challenging the industry to help us tip the balance in favour of the sugar producers like Medine Camp de Masque who are eager to sell more Fairtrade terms.

Come back later in the week for more details and to see how we are bringing insights from the UK to producers from all over Africa. Along with colleagues from other European countries and South Africa we have a stand at the convention showcasing products, posters and leaflets from consumer markets. The stand is decorated with some of our record breaking Fairtrade cotton bunting.

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