Fairtrade bananas Sainsbury's

The UK was still the largest market for Fairtrade bananas, sugar and tea globally

UK retail sales of Fairtrade products helped generate £28m in Fairtrade premium for food producers around the world last year.

This was down from £30m the year before. However, the charity said it was “encouraging” to see British shoppers opt for Fairtrade products despite a “challenging” year for consumers.

Michael Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation said: “2023 was a very challenging year for the UK economy, following the pandemic, global inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, and the impact of the climate crisis on supply chains.

“In this climate, Fairtrade sales volumes continued to hold up well thanks to the support of shoppers and businesses.

“This is very encouraging to see and is testament to the fact that UK shoppers do not trade down on their values when times are tough.”

British shoppers contributed to an increase in Fairtrade cocoa and tea sales volumes of 6% and 5%, respectively, in 2023.

The Fairtrade Foundation also saw growth in other smaller categories such as fresh vegetables (up by 15%) and nuts and oil seeds (up by 12%).

The UK was still the largest market for Fairtrade bananas, processed and fruit juices, herbs and spices, sugar, tea and wine globally, according to Fairtrade International’s latest annual reporting.

There are now almost 5,000 Fairtrade products available to buy in the UK, with most major retailers as well as several brands involved.

Businesses can apply for a licence to use the Fairtrade logo on approved products for a fee. As sales of those products increase, the fees to the foundation – as well as the premium paid to farmers – also increase.

Farmers can use the Fairtrade premium to invest in business and community projects of their choice, including education and environmental initiatives.

The total incoming resources to the Fairtrade Foundation, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, rose by 11% to £13.4m in 2023, from £12.8m in 2022.

Fairtrade’s annual report also renewed urgent calls to government and business to ensure that fair prices are paid to producers and farmers in developing countries, particularly in key supply chains such as the cocoa sector.

It comes amid reports that UK supermarkets are in talks to join a so-called ‘buying coalition’ for Fairtrade products.

Read more: All eyes on ‘industry first’ ethical banana buying coalitions

Grocers including Sainsbury’s and Tesco are reportedly working with the Fairtrade Foundation to buy ethically sourced products including bananas, cocoa and coffee from farmers in countries such as Ivory Coast, Kenya and Colombia under three- to five-year deals.

The joined-up approach would see supermarkets working together to pay the farmers a minimum price and a premium.

Support for farmers around the world was essential amid fears of food insecurity in the UK due to climate change and wider supply chain disruption, Gidney said.

He added: “We need to urgently focus in on credible collaborative solutions to the challenges farmers face.

“We live in a world where the warming climate is threatening the future of staple crops like cocoa, bananas and coffee.

“The more co-operation and power-sharing, the more supply chains can be strengthened. This is increasingly important as the UK becomes more food insecure.”