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Breaking Fast

Feb 29

Written by:
29/02/2016 10:28  RssIcon

Fairtrade Foundation research shows that it is lean times for the farmers who grow our breakfasts 

This week sees the beginning of Fairtrade Fortnight and also marks the start of a new campaign called Breaking Fast. 

The campaign takes the Fairtrade Foundation back to its roots by reminding consumers of its mission to fight poverty through trade. 


Through its research it has found that millions of farmers in developing countries who produce everyday foods for UK consumers are themselves still going hungry and struggling to feed their families. 

Fairtrade Foundation highlights:

“While we sit down to a breakfast coffee, the periods of food shortages are so acute for some coffee farmers they've acquired their own grim names such as Chulga (food suffering) in Ethiopia, or Los Meses Flacos (the thin months) in Nicaragua." 


Michael Gidney, CEO of Fairtrade Foundation:

“It's a tragic irony that so many people we rely on three times a day, from breakfast to dinner, should be going hungry themselves in the 21st century. The current system is broken and farmers are paying the true cost on our behalf.”


Breaking Fast

Figures from the Fairtrade Foundation's new briefing Breaking Fast highlight how small-scale farmers and plantation workers supplying our breakfasts as part of multi billion-pound coffee, tea, cocoa and banana industries often struggle to feed their own families all year round. 


The organisation has launched a national campaign in which thousands of people across the UK will “sit down for breakfast and stand up for farmers” - in order to raise awareness about the plight of farming families facing poverty, and support better, fairer trade for growers of tea, cocoa, bananas, coffee and other crops sourced from around the world. 


The research shows that:

  • In the world's main tea producing regions, more than 30% of children are malnourished – resulting in stunted physical and mental development. In Malawi, this rises to 50%
  • 65% of cocoa farmers in Côte d'Ivoire lack enough resources for food during the months of July and August. 80% live on less than 40p a day per person.
  • Smallholder coffee farmers in three Central American countries were found to have no guarantee of food security for 3-4 months every year.


Leanidas Jimenex Chaparro, small scale farmer from Banafrucoop Cooperative, Colombia:

“Before Fairtrade we were losing money and that caused us to reduce our nourishment,” “We had to measure the amount of food – the rice, the meat, our clothes… I had either breakfast or lunch. We always tried to have our dinner. The portions were small and didnt leave us fall.”

Two Fairtrade producers Julio Mercado Cantillo (a banana farmer from Colombia) and Patrick Kaberia Muthaura (a tea farmer from Kenya) who were present at the Fairtrade press launch of the campaign, stated that meat would be excluded from their diets during the lean times and children would have to go to school without any lunch. 


Michael Gidney:

“Farmers are going hungry to provide our breakfast, because we are not paying the true social and environmental costs of our food. Our world is increasingly unequal and unfair, but we can use the pound in our pockets to help choose carefully what we buy. During Fairtrade Fortnight, thousands of people will stand up for farmers as they sit down to breakfast – we want governments and businesses to take notice and do the same.”


Farmers benefit under Fairtrade

Under the Fairtrade system, as well as either the market price or the safety net of a minimum price that covers the cost of production if the market crashes, farmers' and workers' groups uniquely earn an additional Fairtrade Premium payment to improve social, economic and environmental conditions, according to their decided need. 

Fairtrade's monitoring and evaluation research reveals how many smallholder farmers benefiting from Fairtrade enjoy slightly higher and more stable incomes. For example, smallholder banana farmers in Colombia reported an average 34% increase in income due to their affiliation to Fairtrade. This can lead to improvements in standards of living, with households being able to save more easily and to invest more.

Mzuzu Coffee Farmer, photo credit: Twin and Twin Trading


Several studies show investments in productivity improvements as well as diversification projects that reduce vulnerability, such as improving food security through additional crops or small-scale livestock rearing.

Meanwhile, it's been found that workers on some plantations have used their Fairtrade Premium for the bulk purchase of maize to provide individual workers at a subsidised rate during difficult months, as well as providing loan schemes to set up additional income generation projects.  Research at Satemwa Tea Estate in Malawi has shown that one of the most significant benefits that workers believe Fairtrade certification has supported them with it food security. 


Consumer impact 

Gidney concludes: “Fairtrade only works if people buy it. Increasing the demand for Fairtrade leads to more farmers being food secure.”

Most of the supermarkets now stock several lines of produce certified by Fairtrade. 

In particular Sainsbury's, the Co-op and Waitrose only sell 100% Fairtrade bananas. 

For further information on companies selling Fairtrade produce visit the following related guides:

Breakfast cereals 

Chocolate Bars 













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