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Global flower sales flourish, but workers’ pay is below poverty line, Fairtrade Foundation reports

26 March 2021

FAIRTRADE FOUNDATION/VINCENT OWINO

Workers at the Bigot flower farm, Kenya

Workers at the Bigot flower farm, Kenya

THE flower industry is worth more than £6.7 billion a year to the global economy, and yet the majority of workers on flower farms are being paid at levels below the poverty line, the Fairtrade Foundation has said.

Its report, published to coincide with Mothering Sunday, urges the UK Government to ensure that all flowers sourced by UK flower traders come from estates that pay above the World Bank’s poverty line. The UK is one of the world’s biggest importers of flowers, importing £691 million in 2018.

The Foundation’s own flower-certification scheme covers estates that are growing flowers in Africa, Ecuador, and Sri Lanka, and on each estate workers are paid a living wage. These estates, however, make up only a small proportion of the global flower industry. In some countries, the move to Fairtrade certification meant that workers’ wages rose by 130 per cent.

On many flower farms, wages paid to workers are below a living wage, and many are living in poverty. In Kenya, wages have decreased in the past decade, and the average wage for a flower-farm worker is about £78 a month, compared with the estimated living wage of £211 a month. In Ethiopia, flower workers get even less — between £33 and £39 a month, which is equal to the World Bank’s extreme poverty line.

Workers are also frequently living in crowded and insanitary housing.

The director of impact at the Foundation, Dr Louisa Cox, said: “The flower and plant industry is a hugely important source of hundreds of thousands of jobs in low-income countries, and is particularly vital for women.

“As proud as we are of our impact, Fairtrade-certified flower and plant farms only make up a small proportion of the sector in low-income countries. Building a fairer and more resilient industry will require determined and collective action, including higher prices being paid to flower farms for their products, and actions by governments and shoppers, too.”

The Co-op is one of the UK supermarkets to source its flowers from Fairtrade-certified estates, and is the only UK supplier to stock 100 per cent Fairtrade African roses.

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