mark price

Former Waitrose boss and trade minister Lord Mark Price

Fairtrade can bounce back from recent blows to be stronger than ever, according to its new chair, former Waitrose boss and trade minister Lord Mark Price.

Lord Price was announced as the new chair of the Fairtrade Foundation’s board of trustees this week, his first role since stepping down from his position as international trade minister after just a year in the role.

His appointment comes after a rollercoaster two years for the organisation, which has seen leading companies including Cadbury, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, jump ship. Many have brought in their own self-certification systems or rival schemes.

However, Price told The Grocer the moves by the retailers were a tribute to the work Fairtrade had done in establishing its principles within businesses, and that he was excited about its future.

“Both in my time at Waitrose and with the government I’ve been able to see the impact of Fairtrade at first hand. I’ve been on trips to Rwanda and Kenya and seen the great work they do to bring fairness for farmers.

“I think when you see companies spending millions setting up their own internal systems to deal more fairly with producers and communicate that with their customers, then that is a tribute to what Fairtrade has achieved, not a sign of weakness.”

Lord Price, who takes over the role officially in September, said it also came at a vital time, with the government negotiating post-Brexit trade deals with countries outside the EU.

“Fairtrade has a huge role to play in what happens after Brexit. I will be pushing the government and industry to do more to support Fairtrade and its principles, as something which can help reduce poverty and be positive for business.”

WATCH: Mark Price live interview at the Farm Shop and Deli show 

Lord Price will take over the position from business strategy consultant Michael Jary, who is retiring from the role having completed his agreed five-year term.

While some suppliers and retailers have moved away from Fairtrade of late, others have strengthened their ties, including the Co-op, which in February announced further support for Fairtrade. It pledged that all the bananas, tea and coffee in its own brand range would benefit Fairtrade producers and its communities.

Jary said: “Fairtrade has achieved so much in delivering a better deal for farmers and producers around the world and I am proud to have supported that. I leave at a time that awareness of Fairtrade is at an all-time high, with more people getting behind the principles and buying Fairtrade than ever before.

“As the UK decides how it wishes to trade with the rest of the world, Lord Price’s experience and insights will be vital in helping the Fairtrade Foundation take the next steps in delivering a fairer trading world.”