Over the past ten years, the Fairtrade has become a well-recognised ethical standard mark for UK shoppers. A recent survey found that 78% of the UK public recognise the Fairtrade logo. But UK and European farmers aren’t in the scheme. Might that change and are there local alternatives?

Fairtrade Fortnight

From the 23rd February – 8th March 2015, the UK will celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight. The event promotes Fairtrade goods and raises awareness of the problems with traditional global trade. Organisers tell the stories of the people whose lives are positively affected by UK consumers’ move towards Fairtrade. he event will focus on the scheme’s three main success stories: sugar, tea and cocoa.

How much is Fairtrade?

Recent figures released by the Fairtrade organisation state that tea growers are still only selling 10% of their goods Fairtrade, and with cocoa it’s just 1.2%, leaving plenty of room for growth in the market. So far, Fairtrade deals solely with farmers in the developing world. So what about farmers here in the UK?

Price of UK milk

In recent months, UK dairy farmers have been calling for fairer pay for their products, requesting that the Fairtrade stamp be applied to home-grown produce. Many farmers report that they’re making a loss on sales. On average, a farmer is paid 27p per pint while the cost of production, including costs such as cattle feed, is around 30p.

‘Paying farmers less than it costs to produce their goods is not sustainable, and could ultimately mean the foods we enjoy become significantly less affordable,’ says Tim Aldred, Head of Policy & Research at Fairtrade Foundation.

Alternative solutions?

Even though farmers are keen to use the Fairtrade mark due to the high levels of consumer recognition, there are other markers that show a company’s ethical standards.

Organic milk sells for a higher price than non-organic milk, and due to strict rules around the way that organic milk is produced, farmers and livestock end up getting a better deal.

What ethical food labels mean

But you need to be wise when it comes to interpreting food labels. Terms such as ‘natural’ are not well controlled and producers tend to use them generously.

More helpful food labels do exist, such as the ‘Organic’ label or the Soil Association mark.

The Soil Association says it checks everything from production to packaging to make sure ’food is organically grown, minimally processed, fairly traded, fresh and seasonal’.

The Freedom Food label marks food that is produced to reasonable welfare standards according to RSPCA guidelines.

For fish, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) marks fish that’s sourced with sustainability in mind.

When it comes to meat, the ries to move the pork industry towards more sustainable, hands-on farming. They urge consumers to opt for pork that is labelled ‘Freedom Food’, ‘Outdoor Bred’, ‘Free Range’ or ‘Organic’.

With an understanding of these markers, small retailers and consumers in the UK can support more ethical producers, some of whom may be local. If and when the Fairtrade scheme comes to our shores, it will be another guide to ethical food choices.

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