Who’s got the power? New study confirms imbalances in agricultural supply chains

18 November 2014 (Brussels) – Have you ever wondered how come those local apples in season remain more expensive than bananas all year long? Why do poor farmers get poorer just as the international price of their products rise non-stop? Why is environmental damage increasing even as large companies prove they are implementing sustainability programmes? With city dwellers increasing and rural population dwindling, who will produce the food the hungry urbanites will demand?

The new study opens the door to the answers. “Who’s got the power? Tackling imbalances in agricultural supply chains”, released today in Brussels by the Fair Trade movement[1] reveals how the growing integration –and concentration of power- in the supply chain of agricultural products is having a serious effect not only on producers far away from the supermarket shelves, but all along the supply chain, the environment and onto the choices available to consumers. Unfair trading practices (UTPs)[2] appear, and they are not accidental but structural.

Olivier De Schutter, co-chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems and former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, says in the foreword to the study that “the need to improve the governance of food systems, in order to avoid instances of excessive domination by a small number of major agrifood companies, is hardly ever referred to in international summits that seek to provide answers to the challenges of hunger and malnutrition. This report helps to fill that gap”.


Click here for higher resolution picture.

The study identifies common patterns of concentration involving the main elements of the supply chain, the one exerting pressure on the other all the way down to the producers. The more these elements are integrated with one another, the stronger is the pressure exerted onto the next link in the supply chain:

  • Consumers
  • Retailers (supermarket chains)
  • Branded products manufacturers
  • Traders of produce
  • Processors/Refiners
  • Producers/Farmers
  • Input producers (seeds, fertilizers, etc.)

In sheer size, the Consumers (7 billion) and the Producers/Farmers (2.5 billion) are by far the most numerous. However, most of the value share of the transaction (up to 86%) stays with numbers two to five. But trying to present the problem as one between consumers on one side, and farmers and workers on the other, is meaningless. The degradation of the trading and living conditions of farmers and workers, whether inside or outside Europe, creates important risks of unavailability and unaffordability of products for consumers in the midterm, reducing their welfare in the end.

Addressing concretely the global nature of the problem and its consequences, the study emits no less than 16 practical recommendations to policy-makers, businesses and workers all over the world. The European Union has a clear responsibility to prevent and punish UTPs, considering the superior purchase power of its 550 million inhabitants, as well as the numerous trade agreements it has with produce exporting countries. Transactions do not occur in a legal vacuum but national legislation needs to be adapted to counter the power concentration trend, and it is clear that no solution will be found in isolation, which is why the study includes action proposals to all seven links of the supply chain as well as to multilateral instances such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).


Click here for higher resolution picture.


  • In order to address and resolve the issues the study recommends actions to adopt a comprehensive strategy based on:
  • A vision of consumer welfare that goes beyond purchasing power and recalls its inherent link with farmers’ and workers’ welfare.
  • Measures to rebalance business power in agricultural chains in the short term, currently the law of the strongest has the upper hand.
  • Mechanisms to enhance transparency in agricultural chains so that stakeholders can better identify the risks of abuse of buyer power and unfair trading practices.
  • A renewed European competition policy framework capable of better regulating such abuses.
  • Enforcement mechanisms to stop Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) within food supply chains serving the EU market, with authorities able to investigate claims and punish abuses.
  • Initiatives to promote and widely spread fair trading practices in the mid to long run.



Notes to Editors:

[1]The report was commissioned by the Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO), Traidcraft, the Plate-forme pour le Commerce Equitable and Fairtrade Deutschland, with the support of the European Commission, the Belgian Development cooperation, the Agence Française de Développement and the region Île-de-France.

[2] Practices that grossly deviate from good commercial conduct, are contrary to good faith and fair dealing and are unilaterally imposed by one trading partner on another.

Fair Trade housewarming at the European Parliament

8 October 2014 (Brussels) – The European Parliament Fair Trade Working Group hosted a Fair Trade Breakfast todayLarge numbers of renowned and new Members of the European Parliament attended in support of Fair Trade, marking a successful start to the new legislative term.

Linda McAvan, Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Development and of the Fair Trade Working Group, welcomed the 50 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all major political groups, officials from Permanent Representations of European Union Member States, as well as Fair Trade movement actors and network representatives. Linda McAvan went on to introduce the new Vice Chairs of this cross-party group of MEPs working together for EU policies in support of Fair Trade: Sirpa Pietikäinen, Judith Sargentini, Charles Goerens and Helmut Scholz. She highlighted the work that the Fair Trade Working Group had done in the last legislature and the challenges that now lay ahead for Fair Trade in the European Parliament.

    Educating the audience about various aspects of Fair Trade (from left to right): Sergi Corbalán, Nyagoy Nyong’o, Linda                                         McAvan and Giorgio Dal Fiume. For picture with higher resolution click here. 

Amongst the speakers addressing the crowd was Bernd Lange, the Chair of the Committee on International Trade in the European Parliament, who spoke about the importance of fairness in international trade. In her keynote speech Nyagoy Nyong’o, Executive Director of Fairtrade Africa presented the work of her organisation for Fairtrade certified producers in Africa. Giorgio Dal Fiume, President of the World Fair Trade Organization–Europe presented in his speech what Fair Trade Organisations in Europe are doing to raise awareness and support small producers in the South.

 While listening to the speeches MEPs and Fair Trade actors enjoyed breakfast with Fair Trade ingredients. For picture with higher resolution click here.

The event took place during Fair Trade week in Belgium - an initiative of the Belgium Development Cooperation – and the Vote for Fair Trade campaign which is funded by the European Commission and includes Fair Trade organisations from around Europe to advocate together for Fair Trade.
“It is time for the EU to give prominence to this topic by putting forward a European Strategy for Fair Trade which will contribute to giving much needed coherence to EU policies in trade and development, especially taking opportunity of the upcoming European Year for Development in 2015.” concluded Sergi Corbalán, Executive Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office.
A pdf version of this press release can be found here.
A video about this event can be found here:
The Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) speaks out on behalf of the Fair Trade movement for Fair Trade and Trade Justice with the aim to improve the livelihoods of marginalised producers and workers in the South. The FTAO is a joint initiative of Fairtrade International, the European Fair Trade Association and the World Fair Trade Organization-Europe. Through these three networks the FTAO represents an estimate of 2.5 million Fair Trade producers and workers from 70 countries, 24 labelling initiatives, over 500 specialised Fair Trade importers, 4,000 World Shops and more than 100,000 volunteers.

Peter Möhringer | moehringer@fairtrade-advocacy.org | Tel: +32 (0)2 54 31 92 3

Fair Trade Advocacy Office | Village Partenaire - bureau 1 | 15 rue Fernand Bernierstraat | 1060 Brussels – Belgium www.fairtrade-advocacy.org

Fair Trade movement congratulates first Fair Trade-enthusiast European Commission President

15 July 2014 (Brussels) - The European Parliament has elected today Jean-Claude Juncker as new President of the European Commission. Mr Juncker, a self-declared Fair Trade-enthusiast, is the first Commission President to have endorsed a Fair Trade Manifesto ahead of his appointment. The Fair Trade movement calls on Mr Juncker to add ensure the new College of Commissioners puts in place an enabling policy environment for Fair Trade across EU policies.

Joomla JCJ bubble4  Joomla JCJ manifesto

Click here and here for higher resolution pictures of Mr Jean-Claude Juncker endorsing the Votefor Fair Trade Manifesto on 9 April 2014.

Following today’s election by the European Parliament of Jean-Claude Juncker as new President of the European Commission, the Fair Trade movement congratulates Mr. Juncker for being the first President of the European Commission to have committted to support Fair Trade ahead of his appointment.

In his earlier position as Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Mr Juncker “enthusiastically” supported Fair Trade, as he told the Fair Trade movement in a video interview on 9 April 2014, ahead of the European elections. On this occasion, he also stated “we have to introduce this dimension, the dimension of Fair Trade into our trade policies and into part of our trade agreements with others in the world. Fair Trade is a real issue”.

Jean-Louis Zeien, President of the Board of Fairtrade Luxembourg stated: “Jean-Claude Juncker has been supporting Fair Trade for twenty years, since the Fairtrade Labelling initiative was set up in Luxembourg in 1992. When he was Prime Minister, his administration was one of the first to purchase Fair Trade coffee. During a Fair Trade breakfast in May 2008, at the Château de Senningerberg with the government of Luxembourg, he made a declaration in favour of integrating Fair Trade in public procurement.”.

Sergi Corbalán, Executive Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office, stated “We are thankful for the support that Mr Juncker gave to Fair Trade as Prime Minister of Luxembourg”.

The Fair Trade movement calls on Mr Juncker to put in place an enabling policy environment for Fair Trade across EU policies during his mandate as President of the European Commission..“We call on Mr Juncker to pass on his enthusiasm for Fair Trade to the new team of Commissioners” said Corbalán.

The upcoming European Year for Development in 2015, during which Luxembourg will hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, will provide a timely opportunity for the European Commission, and the government of Luxembourg, to put Fair Trade on the EU table. 


Mr Juncker at a Fair Trade breakfast organised by Fairtrade Luxembourg on 9 May 2008 in SenningenLuxembourg. Click here for a higher resolution picture.

A pdf version of this press release can be found here.


Sergi Corbalán | Executive Director

Tel: +32 (0) 2 543 19 23 | corbalan@fairtrade-advocacy.org

Fair Trade Advocacy Office

Village Partenaire - bureau 1 | Rue Fernand Bernierstraat, 15 | 1060 - Brussels - Belgium


Commission passes on hot potato on Unfair Trading Practices

15 July 2014 (Brussels)The European Commission has missed the chance today to push for a level playing-field and robust enforcement mechanism on Unfair Trading Practices. Instead, it calls on industry and EU Member States to take action and delays its decision to end 2015. The Fair Trade movement regrets the negative impact this non-decision will have on workers and farmers supplying the EU market.

The European Commission issued today a Communication Tackling unfair trading practices in the business-to-business food supply chain1 as a follow-up to the Green Paper on Unfair Trading Practices of 31 January 20132. In this policy document, the European Commission has decided, for the moment, neither to legislate nor to put in place a robust enforcement mechanism against Unfair Trading Practices.

The Fair Trade Movement is satisfied that the European Commission recognises that Unfair Trading Practices have a negative impact on “weaker parties in third countries, including in developing countries" and the existing “fear factor” amongst suppliers. It is also satisfied that the Commission realises that the “Voluntary Supply Chain” initiative, set up by a number of industry trade associations, does not guarantee sufficient confidentiality for suppliers and that, without independent enforcement mechanism, the initiative is not sufficient to be effective.

In light of the pertinent analysis by the European Commission services, the Fair Trade movement is therefore all the more disappointed by the lack of political courage to put in place a level-playing field on Unfair Trading Practices and a robust enforcement mechanism at EU level, which would be the logical consequence of the serious issues identified by the Commission services.

Over 43,000 signers from Europe and Latin America had called earlier this year on the European Commission to put in place a robust EU enforcement mechanism against the abuse of power in supply chains3. Unfair Trading Practices affect millions of producers in and outside of the EU but also the quality and range of the food which we are able to buy in Europe. The failure to act by the EC will result in a continuation and increase of short-notice forced overtime being required of farmers and workers as well as poverty incomes on precarious contracts. It will also continue creating food waste4.

Voluntary codes with inappropriate enforcement had already been tried in the UK with the clear result that a system that does not guarantee anonymity is not equipped to overcome the “climate of fear”. This situation prevents suppliers from complaining in the first place because it would jeopardise their economic existence if they were delisted as a retaliation for a complaint they raised against their abusive buyers.

The announcement by the Commission coincides with the appointment of its new Head, Jean-Claude Juncker, who stated in his programmatic agenda presented today to the European Parliament “We need more fairness in our internal market5”.

Sergi Corbalán, Fair Trade Advocacy Office Executive Director stated  “We welcome the commitment to fairness by the new European Commission President and ask him to put in place as soon as possible a level playing field and robust enforcement mechanism against Unfair Trading Practices”.

A pdf version of this press release can be found here.


The Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) speaks out on behalf of the Fair Trade movement for Fair Trade and Trade Justice with the aim to improve the livelihoods of marginalised producers and workers in the South. The FTAO is a joint initiative of Fairtrade International, the European Fair Trade Association and the World Fair Trade Organization-Europe. Through these three networks the FTAO represents an estimate of 2.5 million Fair Trade producers and workers from 70 countries, 24 labelling initiatives, over 500 specialised Fair Trade importers, 4,000 World Shops and more than 100,000 volunteers.



Peter Möhringer | moehringer@fairtrade-advocacy.org | Tel: +32 (0)2 54 31 92 3

Fair Trade Advocacy Office

Village Partenaire - bureau 1 | 15 rue Fernand Bernierstraat | 1060 Brussels – Belgium


1 Press release and memo issued today can be found under: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-831_en.htm

2 Green Paper available from: http://eur-lex.europa.eu

3 The British Institute of International and Comparative Law recently issued a report setting out how European Enforcement mechanism should be set up to stop Unfair Trading practices (UTPs) within food supply chains serving the EU market. Please see here - http://www.biicl.org/newsitem/6070  and http://www.biicl.org/files/6952_biicl_enforcement_mechanisms_report_-_final.pdf  for more information.

4 “Catalyst for change” National Farmers Union 2012 report www.nfuonline.com/assets/6106

European Citizens' Initiative demands: Stop negotiations for TTIP and CETA

European Citizens' Initiative STOP TTIP

Press release, 15 July 2014 

ECI-Registration 15 July 2015 – criticism: insufficient democratic participation and weakening of standards 

Today, Tuesday (15 July), the 47th European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) has brought forward its motion for registration at the European Commission. The initiative “STOP TTIP” asks the EU Commission to recommend to the EU Council of Ministers to repeal the negotiating mandate for the Trade Investor Partnership (TTIP) and not to conclude the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) either. Behind the initiative are standing nearly 148 organisations from 18 EU member states. In Germany, the organisations Attac, Campact, Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), More Democracy (Mehr Demokratie e.V.), Environment Institute Munich and the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Unit (NABU) coordinate the preparations. Amongst many others, Transparency International Germany, Greenpeace Luxembourg, 38 degrees (UK), War on Want (UK), Unison (UK), and Tierra (Friends of the Earth Spain) belong to the European coalition, which is growing constantly.

“The centre of our criticism is the democratic dimension of the planned agreement: rules, which have far-reaching consequences for 500 million EU citizens in 28 member states, are negotiated behind closed doors. This is what we oppose”, says Michael Efler, representative of the ECI's citizens' committee and spokesperson of the federal association More Democracy (Mehr Demokratie e.V.). In particular, he criticises the planned Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). These are rules concerning investment protection, which grant foreign investors far-reaching protection rights. If e.g. a national parliament passes a law, which would affect the investment and profits of a company, the latter would have the right to file a suit – however not in front of a public court but in front of a confidential arbitral court. Democratically legitimized decisions and constitutional procedures would be thwarted. “The plans on regulatory cooperation are dangerous as well. They would lead to a constraint of democratic control. That means: They would set up a sort of early warning mechanism for planned trade-related laws or regulations. It would allow the contracting party and lobbyists to voice their interest even before the parliamentary process. Unwanted regulations that could hamper market access could be prevented in this way”, Michael Efler explains.

John Hilary, executive director of the British organization War on Want and member of the citizens' committee, further states: "The TTIP agreement should not be understood as a treaty between two competing trade partners, the EU and USA. Instead, it is about the common attempt of multinational companies on both sides of the Atlantic to break open markets at the expense of consumer protection, food safety, environmental provisions, valuable social standards, regulations on the use of toxins or regulations on bank safety." Open calls for tender on public services are to be opened for the application of transnational companies as well. "One concrete example can be found in the different principles underlying consumer and environmental protection in the EU and the US," Hilary emphasizes. "The precautionary principle, which is used in the EU, ensures stricter regulations regarding, for example, the approval of chemicals. Through TTIP, however, a company could gain the right to register its product in the US and to place it on the European market afterwards." In US markets, the 'ex-post' approach applies. This means that only when the harmfulness of a product has been explicitly proven, it is taken off the market. The obstacles for approval are therefore lower at the beginning, Hilary concludes.

Susan George, President of the Board of the Transnational Institute Amsterdam (TNI), honorary President of ATTAC-France and member of the ECI's committee explains that hundreds of bilateral and pluri-lateral trade and investment agreements have already been signed – but the TTIP is exceedingly dangerous because it has been prepared by transnational corporations for 20 years. These huge companies have shaped the content and become an official part of the TTIP process at the invitation of governments, to the exclusion of all other citizens. However, this treaty can be defeated as was the case for the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), also negotiated in secret which was beaten in 1998 by a strong citizens‘ movement, partly because it contained the same exorbitant rights for corporations as the TTIP, such as the Investor to State Dispute System (ISDS) allowing them to sue governments in private tribunals for damages if they consider that a government decision would interfere with their present or even hoped-for, future profits. The companies thus seek to privatise not only the judiciary, but also a substantial part of governments’ legislative functions by taking over decisions on regulations and standards. They could even intimidate the executive branch with the threat of a barrage of lawsuits if it tried to improve laws concerning banks, labour, the environment, change, food safety, health, etc. “The TTIP is a grave threat to democracy – the ECI wants democracy, not ‘corporatocracy’”, George concludes. Since 1 April 2012, citizens of EU states have the possibility to request a legislative act from the European Commission: the ECI. At the same time a successful ECI forces a hearing at the European Parliament. For an ECI to be successful, at least one million signatures must be collected. Moreover, country-specific quorums must be achieved in at least seven EU member states. Further facts on the planned European Citizens' Initiative:

You can find the wording of the ECI here:


Each ECI needs a citizens' committee consisting of seven members. You can find information about the members here:


The start of signature collection for the anti-TTIP-ECI is planned for September this year. You can find a detailed time schedule here;


More Democracy (Mehr Demokratie e.V.) has commissioned an independent legal opinion, which reviews the legal legitimacy in advance. It comes to the result that ECI is admissible. You can consult the legal opinion here:


The members oft he ECI-coalition: stop-ttip.org/more-about-the-eci/

If you wish to be updated on the ECI you can subscribe to the ECI's press mailing list by contacting Regine Laroche, Mehr Demokratie e.V. (presse@mehr-demokratie.de).


A pdf version of this press release can be found here.


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      The first EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award is officially launched!


      08 December 2017 (Brussels)Yesterday, the European Commission officially launched the first EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award. The Fair Trade movement warmly encourage local authorities to give the necessary visibility to their key contributors to make trade Fair by joining the competition.

      The long-awaited EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award has been officially launched yesterday. This was a commitment that the Commission took in October 2014, when the current EU Trade strategy was launched.

      The purpose of the award is to:

      • Recognize and celebrate cities’ achievements and positive impact in the areas of social, economic and environmental sustainability in international trade. 
      • Emphasize Fair and ethical trade schemes, as well as other non-governmental sustainability schemes, which may bring more sustainable opportunities to small producers in third countries and thus support sustainable and inclusive development.

      The call for applications is now open and EU local authorities can apply until April 2018. The winner is expected to be announced in Brussels in June 2018.

      “The launch of this award has been strongly requested by the Fair Trade movement and the more than 2000 Fair Trade Towns. Therefore, we welcome this initiative which gives the necessary visibility to the contribution of local authorities in promoting sustainable consumption and production models.”

      Sergi Corbalán, FTAO Executive Director

      The Fair Trade movement looks forward to supporting the European Commission and the International Trade Centre, appointed to set-up the award, to make this initiative a real success! The Fair Trade movement will mobilise its network to ensure a high participation of EU local authorities in the award. It will also seize the opportunity to raise awareness on the role of local policy makers in promoting sustainable development through trade.

      You can learn more about the award and how to apply here

      You can read FTAO’s toolkit on localising the SDGs through Fair Trade here

      A pdf version of this press release can be found here.


      The Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) speaks out for Fair Trade and Trade Justice with the aim to improve the livelihoods of marginalised producers and workers in the South. The FTAO is a joint initiative of Fairtrade International, the World Fair Trade Organization-Global and the World Fair Trade Organization-Europe.


      Peter Möhringer | moehringer@fairtrade-advocacy.org | Tel: +32 (0)2 54 31 92 3

      Fair Trade Advocacy Office

      Village Partenaire - bureau 1 | 15 rue Fernand Bernierstraat | 1060 Brussels – Belgium



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