Sir; Fairtrade is big business - annual sales at retail of £300m per year, 46% year-on-year growth, and 2,500 products on sale. And it's not just food. Fairtrade textiles are growing rapidly with Marks & Spencer leading the way, almost owning Fairtrade clothing. So why then does the Fairtrade movement refuse to have anything to do with one particular group of hard-pressed small farmers?
Trying to feed your family through growing tobacco is tough. Globalisation means the enormous multinationals that control the international tobacco trade can drive down the prices they pay to struggling farmers and play one origin off against another. Sounds familiar? It is exactly the same situation that created the demand for Fairtrade coffee.
So why have Fairtrade organisations throughout the EU and in the US refused to engage with tobacco producers? It can't be the health agenda as there is loads of Fairtrade sugar, chocolate and booze around. So maybe this is a moral decision, ie tobacco = bad?
Many tobacco farmers would like to diversify into growing other crops but such diversification costs money. Fairtrade could help here by making sure that more ethical companies purchased tobacco at a fair price with the resultant social premium being used to fund farmers diversifying out of tobacco production and into growing other crops such as cotton, chillis or groundnuts.
Multinational tobacco companies give very little or no hope of salvation to the farmers they deal with yet make millions for their shareholders. Fairtrade organisations do not see this and somewhere a decision has been made not to support these wretched people by allowing them Fairtrade status.
I want to see the small tobacco farmer replace his dependency on tobacco by growing other crops.