Sainsbury’s will start selling its own-brand tea under a new “Fairly Traded” label, sparking a fierce backlash from the Fairtrade Foundation, which currently has its brand on the tea.
The foundation said that it is concerned that the new “untested model”, which the supermarket is due to start using in an open-ended trial next month, will not help the most marginalised tea farmers and producers.
In Malawi, one of the countries to be enrolled in the new “Fairly Traded” pilot scheme, 75 per cent of the population already live below the international poverty line.
Tea is the second largest export after tobacco for this landlocked nation, one of the poorest countries in Africa. Around 90 per cent of its tea is sold to Britain. Sainsbury’s, the UK’s second biggest supermarket and the world’s biggest Fairtrade retailer, is a major buyer.
Sainsbury’s say “Fairly Traded” will operate in a similar way to Fairtrade – by guaranteeing farmers a minimum price for their tea, and providing a premium per kilo on top of that for development projects, such as agricultural training and improving health and education facilities.
Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance certified farmers will automatically qualify for the scheme, and farmers will have the option of being certified “Fairly Traded”, too.
The key difference is how the premium is paid to producers.
Fairtrade’s premium fund is given directly to communities, and an association made up of farmers decides how the money is used.