Written Evidence: Fairtrade Foundation

Agricultural exports are linked to millions of jobs in Africa. There is business and donor interest in investing in agriculture and policy makers are seeking to use trade to address poverty reduction, in line with the SDG agenda. This is an opportunity for farmers and workers in Africa.

However, investment will not lead to poverty reduction and sustainable livelihoods automatically. Farmers and workers are in asymmetric power relationships with their overseas buyers, and this means that they often do not receive the benefits of trade that they should. The share of value received for important agricultural products such as bananas and cocoa is often not sufficient to deliver decent work and incomes. Many African farmers and workers growing food for UK markets experience food insecurity and poverty.

Finding ways to tip the balance back in favour of producers – increasing the empowerment of farmers and workers in the value chain is crucial for increasing the share of value and benefits of trade. In smallholder settings co-operatives are a good way to build empowerment, and in plantation settings a focus on improving workers’ rights is essential.

Women farmers and workers are especially disempowered in the value chain. Here, targeted, context-specific interventions are needed to address profound inequalities.

Trade policy decisions have a profound impact on the opportunities available to poor farmers and workers to access markets. Although policy coherence on trade is seen as important by the UK government, it has not always worked well in practice. Excellent trade policy coherence across government is very important if poverty reduction goals are not to be undermined.

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