EU process on Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) must not forget about non-EU producers

Nathalie Bertrams

On 20 June Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan announced an Incept Impact Assessment as the first step of a possible legislative process on Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs). Under the better regulation guidelines this will take 12 weeks and will then be followed by a 12 weeks public consultation, resulting in a possible legislative draft to be expected in the first half of 2018. This announcement follows last year’s report of the European Parliament that called for EU action after years continued delays on this file.

The Fair Trade movement welcomes that the EC is looking at tackling the issue of power in groceries supply chains. To effectively combat UTPs the Fair Trade movement continues its call for fair and credible enforcement from member states that is coordinated at the EU-level. Pivotal for the creation of a level playing field in any new legislation is the inclusion of non-EU producers exporting into the EU under the scope. As proven in many case studies (e.g. for bananas, green beans, mango, cashew, etc.) UTPs in supply chains into the EU negatively impact producers in the Global South and thereby jeopardize the EU’s development efforts and SDG commitments.

Assessing coffee farmer household income

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The social enterprise TruePrice, jointly with Fairtrade International, conducted a study to assess the household income of 450 coffee farmers from Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, India, Indonesia and Vietnam. Indeed, many farmers continue to struggle to make ends meet and this study enables Fairtrade International to help them towards a decent standard of living. Indeed, some Fairtrade farmers are attaining a living income, while others are even making a loss on coffee production.
The report gives lots of useful insights for Fairtrade International’s living income strategy, and for future collaboration with the coffee industry, as it is one of the most detailed to date.

Challenges in and Fair Trade solutions for the banana industry

make fruit fair

“Bananas are the bestselling fruit in the world. They don't need advertising, everybody wants them. As cheap as possible.” This sentence is the first thing one sees when entering storyofbanana.com, a website set up by , the Ecumenical Academy (Czech Republic) jointly with 19 partners as part of the Make Fruit Fair Campaign. This very interesting website enables one to really assess the impact in the South of purchasing cheap bananas in European supermarkets. Along with a counter comparing the amount of money earned by Lidl and by Miguel, a plantation worker, while one browses the website, one comes across several testimonies of banana producers on their daily life.
The Story of the banana also emphasizes on the environmental impact of the banana production, banana being the second most chemically intensive crop grown after cotton. Thus, the banana workers are affected.
Indeed, an epidemiological study realized by SüdWind among the banana workers from Ecuador and based on a questionnaire survey has been released and presents concerning results regarding the effects of pesticides on human health.
71 workers from five different locations in Ecuador, the world’s largest exporter of bananas, volunteered for taking a medical survey on their self-reported symptoms as well as exposure indicators. 34 pesticides-exposed and 37 non-pesticides-exposed male workers participated.
The results showed that farmers involved in organic farming had less symptoms presented by the conventional farmers (vomiting, skin irritation, burning eyes, insomnia). Moreover, the exposed group had a 6 – 8-fold increased risk for reporting gastrointestinal symptoms (in the last 6 month) than the control group who did not use pesticides. After taking swabs of workers’ buccal mucosae, nuclear anomalies were found, showing a carcinogenic potential.
What is also striking, is that most of the farmers do not know what pesticides they apply and use only minimal protection, mostly because the protective clothing is not provided by the employers.
In order to help consumers, an article extracted from Ethical Consumer Magazine highlights several problems reported in the banana industry. First, the article reveals that none of the largest companies in the banana industry scored best or even middle in the magazine’s key social and environmental reporting ratings. For instance, several companies including Del Monte, Dole and Chiquita have been accused of funding paramilitary organisations in the northern banana-producing region of Uraba, Colombia. Another flaw of the banana production is its impact on environment as the majority of the production is concentrated on one variety, the Cavendish, which makes the plants very susceptible to diseases, which are fought against with pesticides.
Ethical Consumer Magazine has also released an explanatory video on the banana industry and gives pieces of advice on where to buy the most ethical bananas and which label to trust. Fairtrade certified EkoOke bananas have a very good rating as well as Fairtrade bananas retailers (Sainsbury’s, Co-op and Waitrose).
Amidst all the challenges the banana industry comprises also several success stories thanks to Fair Trade. Fairtrade Poland recently released a case study focusing on an Ecuadorian cooperative, ASOGUABO, producing bananas. The plantation sells over 1 million boxes of bananas per year and all of them are Fairtrade certified. When a buyer pays 9$ for a box of bananas, 6$ goes directly to the producer, which encourages them to continue to apply the standards. This cooperative, which has the ambition to “change the banana market”, is a success story as ASOGUABO bananas are sold in Europe, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and are used to produce Ben&Jerry’s famous ice cream.
Among the 600 banana workers at ASOGUABO, this study chose to bring to light 5 testimonies from the producers to highlight the importance that the Fairtrade certification has had on the empowerment of these workers, in particular concerning the way the premium is spent in the community.

Event on linking SMEs to Fair Trade producers in the European Parliament

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On 10 May 2017, the Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) organized a conference in the European Parliament (EP) titled “Promoting sustainable value chains by linking SMEs to Fair Trade producers in the Global South”. The event was hosted by MEP Bernd Lange (S&D, DE), Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on International Trade (INTA) and by MEP Dita Charanzová (ALDE, CZ), Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO).
The first part of the conference was a workshop during which several perspectives on the sustainable value chains were outlined. Jane Katahwire Mbabazi, a coffee producer from Uganda, explained the initiatives undertaken by her Fairtrade-certified cooperative while Silvia Fontana from GALA Cosmetici represented the SMEs sourcing from sustainable suppliers. Different case studies from Brazil and the Netherlands were examined during this workshop.
The panel debate, moderated by San Bilal from ECDPM, gathered MEP Linda McAvan, Chair of the EP Development Committee and of the EP Fair Trade Working Group, Jolana Mungengová, member of Cabinet of Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström, Leonard Mizzi, Head of Unit at Directorate-General for Development Cooperation (DEVCO) as well as Claudio Cappellini, Head of EU Affairs at CNA, Member of the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME) and Sergi Corbalán (FTAO).
The debate was followed by a Fair Trade cocktail, during which the attendees had the opportunity to discuss with Dario Soto, CEO of Fairtrade International and Natalia Leal, Chief Executive of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO).
The minutes of the conference are available here.

SDGs mean business

SDGs report

WWF issued a new report in February 2017 focusing on how businesses can use credible voluntary sustainability standards to contribute to many of the SDGs and targets. Standards and certification systems are one mechanism for scaling up sustainable practices and transforming sectors.
The private sector has a responsibility to contribute to achieving the SDGs. Large multinational companies, in particular, have a key role to play in addressing social and environmental issues in their own supply chains and the wider sector they are part of. Credible sustainability standards offer businesses a ready-made tool to do so.

Key elements of a credible standard system include:
• Multi-stakeholder participation
• Transparency
• Independent verification
• Continuous improvement

Three main considerations will help decide whether a sustainability standard can help a
business contribute to the SDGs:
1. relevance to goals, targets, indicators and business themes under the SDGs agenda
2. performance levels and the pathway to compliance
3. creating opportunities, channeling resources and mobilizing investments.

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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.

       ENDS

      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.

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

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