Fairtrade International — including its U.S. chapter, Fairtrade America — have collected and raised $7 million to help producers in developing countries deal with the short- and long-term effects of COVID-19.

Coffee, cocoa and flower producers in particular have been hit hard by coronavirus and issues stemming from the pandemic.  

Specifically, Fairtrade International has two funds to aid farmers and workers: 

The new Fairtrade Producer Relief Fund:

Provides immediate support to Fairtrade certified producers, including funds to purchase masks and basic protective and medical equipment, temporarily cover wages for suspended workers, set up local food security initiatives, raise awareness of safety precautions, build emergency medical facilities, and pay for business continuity costs. 

The Producer Resilience Fund:

Assists with impending long-term challenges expected to impact global supply chains and trade. This fund accepts donations from retailers, businesses, non-governmental organizations and government agencies and has collected over $3.1 million in pledges to date. 

Specifically, this fund will assist with impending long-term challenges expected to impact global supply chains and trade. This fund provides economic interventions such as business restoration, technology-based capacity building, programs to address human rights risks, strengthening finances to tackle future risks, and advocacy — most of which will be felt by farmers in the next harvest season.

If secured, the pledges combined with the existing funds would result in $7 million in additional support to producer groups. 

“Fairtrade America and our international system partners work everyday to better the lives of farmers and workers by helping them earn a fair wage,” said Bryan Lew, chief operating officer, Fairtrade America. “The global pandemic is putting a severe strain on these hardworking people and their families. It is our duty to help ensure their health and well being and the viability of their livelihood in the future.”

Fairtrade producers are trying to adapt to the new challenges presented by the pandemic. For example:

  • Cocoa farmers in West Africa Fairtrade are expecting an increase in cases of child labor in their communities, rooted in increased poverty. Cocoa farmers are losing income due to challenges with transporting and exporting their crops. Cocoa communities are at risk for contracting COVID-19 because of a high rate of pre-existing health conditions resulting from poverty and poor nutrition, as well as a lack of adequate healthcare. 
  • Coffee producers in Latin America face challenges with harvesting, transporting and exporting coffee beans. Wider economic downturn is expected to slow prices, which are already historically low. Prior to the pandemic, nearly 61 percent of coffee farmers sold their coffee at prices under the cost of sustainable production.
  • Flower producers in all origins, including Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Ecuador, continue to be severely impacted with widespread job losses and reduced workers employed on farms to sustain minimal activity. 

“The crisis won’t end when COVID-19 stops spreading. We’re already seeing a global economic crisis looming,” said Nygagoy Nyong’o, executive director of Fairtrade Africa, the producer network covering Africa and the Middle East. “Farmers and workers are resilient and creative. This additional fund will enable them to identify opportunities or alternative business models, as well as continuing to invest in the future of their communities.”

Fairtrade America is calling on U.S. businesses to contribute to the Producer Resilience Fund, which will be allocated to Fairtrade certified producer organizations on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis. The funds will be managed by Fairtrade’s regional producer networks, which support African, Asian and Latin American producers on the ground. For more information, please visit http://www.fairtradeamerica.org/Impact/Covid19.

About Fairtrade America

Fairtrade America betters the lives of farmers and workers in developing countries by inspiring businesses to implement ethical production practices and assisting shoppers in making informed purchasing decisions. Fairtrade America is the US chapter of Fairtrade International, the original and global leader in fair trade certification with over 30 years of experience working to make trade fair, with headquarters in more than 30 countries across the globe. 

A non-profit 501(c)3 organization, Fairtrade America is the world's largest and most recognized fair trade system—part of a global movement for change. Learn more at www.fairtradeamerica.org, and by connecting with Fairtrade America on Instagram and LinkedIn