Co-Op re-purposes funding for Fairtrade farmers around the world

The UK-based Co-op group has re-purposed a total of £310,000 funding to directly support Fairtrade cocoa sector producers around the world, including farmers in Peru, who have been impacted by the global coronavirus crisis.

As the ethically-focused business explained to Confectionery Production, the pandemic has had a major impact on international trade and purchasing restrictions has caused the deflationary spiral in cocoa prices which have dropped by 28% since the start of March.

The cocoa sector continues to be impacted by the spread of the disease and as the price, which has been as high as $2998 per tonne, continues to fall, it will have significant affects for the farmers at the end of the chain and their livelihoods.

In response, Co-op has repurposed £310,000 of funding which will go to help projects across the world. This includes £42,500 from Co-op and its supplier ICAM Chocolate UK Ltd for Cat-Tocache cocoa co-operative in Peru. The community is using the funds for emergency relief food parcels, essential PPE equipment for health personnel and quarantine hostels for people infected with Covid-19 to isolate away from their families.

The funding will support 415 farmer members of the Cat-Tocache co-operative (pictured) with its 2,075 family members and communities from the environmental and social development areas of the Tocache Town in Northern Peru. The move forms part of the Co-op Global Wellbeing Charter, a new initiative which aims to provide close to £1m in monetary support to help support global projects during the crisis.

Its five point plan spans aspects of Fairtrade, humanitarian support, access to clean water, workers’ rights and climate change to include: £310k of existing funding has been repurposed to support Fairtrade producers through the pandemic emergency, and £647k donated to communities to clean water and sanitation projects and help tackle the spread and impact of coronavirus.

In addition, the business is supporting a number of projects with our suppliers and other partners across the rest of our supply chain to address the impact of coronavirus to keep workers safe. This includes being a Signatory of the United Nations Recover Better campaign to prioritise a recovery from coronavirus consistent with a sustainable world for future generations, as well as increasing the visibility of Fairtrade products in Co-op stores.

Cathryn Higgs, head of policy at Co-op said: “As a co-operative, people are naturally at the heart of everything we do and we are committed to helping those people in our supply chain who have been worst affected by the unprecedented impacts of coronavirus. By repurposing our funds, we are funnelling money right to the heart of where it is needed. Fairtrade is the only ethical mark that guarantees a fair price for the crops so when the price drops, we know that we are still paying our farmers the right price for the goods.

“We are pleased to be able to launch our new Global Wellbeing Charter at a time when many supply chains across the world are facing a raft of new challenges. Our business must be agile in responding to these and we are committed to protecting workers’ livelihoods and the environment as we navigate this crisis together.”

Euan Venters, commercial director at Fairtrade Foundation, added: “We’re deeply concerned about how coronavirus will affect people living through conflict, disaster and poverty. Across the globe, each one of us has been affected by coronavirus pandemic. This crisis is a global humanitarian challenge. Now, more than ever, we must support one another, especially the most vulnerable members of society.”

Under Fairtrade, cocoa farmers earn a minimum price for their cocoa beans in a bid to protect them against global market volatility. On top of this, a Fairtrade premium is paid to the certified farming co-operatives, which is spent on community projects such as building schools or health centres, improving productivity and quality. It’s estimated that 500 million blocks of chocolate were sold last year, which has increased by 15% in 2020 to 560m.

If every single bar bought was done so on Fairtrade terms, that would equate to over £700k of Fairtrade premium going to help these farmers protect their livelihoods. Sales since lockdown of block chocolate have increased by more than 40% across the market, with sales at Co-op more than doubling.

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