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Fairtrade report warns of diminishing supplies of staples such as coffee, bananas, and cocoa

07 March 2023

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BRITISH staples such as bananas, coffee, and cocoa could become scarce as a consequence of climate breakdown, changing patterns in growing seasons, and the struggles of farmers and growers overseas to make ends meet, the Fairtrade Foundation (FF) warned in a report last week.

The global cost-of-living crisis, and the economic challenges of a post-Covid world, are also contributing to supply problems, its report, The Endangered Aisle, says. It suggests that not all British shoppers realise the extent to which extreme or unpredictable weather will make it harder for farmers to grow and sell food in sufficient quantities in the future.

Farming, transport, logistics, labour, and household costs are rising for agricultural communities, aggravated by the impact of both the war in Ukraine and the Covid pandemic. Some 80 per cent of the world’s food comes from more than 600 million small-scale family farms, which often lack the resources they need to adapt to a changing climate.

The UK has among the highest per capita consumption of bananas in Europe: on average, about 85 bananas a year each. Almost 90 per cent of UK imports come from seven countries in Central and South America and Africa, including Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia. A large proportion of the land footprint required to meet demand for cocoa is in countries with a high loss of habitat and associated ecosystems services.

Consumer research commissioned by FF showed coffee to be the Fairtrade item people would most struggle to live without. All this shows, the report says, “how heavily we have come to rely on food grown by farmers overseas. It is vital that farmers and workers receive a fair price that will enable them to invest in transitioning to sustainable, climate-resilient ways of production, and to safeguard the environment, their livelihoods and their harvests.”

Research published in October 2022 showed that farmers who benefited from Fairtrade standards, pricing, payments, and programmes were more resilient in times of global crisis. “Making the small switch to Fairtrade is a way we can all play our part to protect the future of our planet and the food we love,” the report suggests.

It finds some cause for optimism in recognition among some shoppers about how small lifestyle changes could make a big difference: more than one third were reported to be making changes to their lifestyle and shopping habits to limit their impact on the planet. Of those asked, almost half said that they chose products that were sustainably sourced when they went shopping.

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