In the run-up to this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight, Mike Gidney explains Fairtrade’s latest thinking on food production for the future.

The new year had barely begun before the news agenda made it clear that food was going to be a recurring theme throughout 2013. One day we were reading views about how food prices would keep rising due to poor harvests around the world caused by climate change. The next, pundits were analysing how the UK should deal with research showing one in two adults here is now overweight or obese, with rates projected to increase to two in three people obese within 10 years, here and in many other developed countries.

Whatever the daily digest of food stories, from bemoaning the fact that people cannot cook to campaigns about hidden additives, it became clear that we urgently need to find new and different ways for our global system of agriculture and food production. For us at the Fairtrade Foundation, and the many Fairtrade supporters in churches and other groups around the country, all this chimes with our long-held outlook. It seems timely that we are set to run a three-year campaign on food, launching the first phase during Fairtrade Fortnight (25 February to 10 March 2013) – so we are ready with messages to lobby government and all relevant parties for the food summit that will precede the G8 in Northern Ireland in June.

Fairtrade is a movement well-placed to contribute to any debate on food, looking both ways as we do to the producer and the consumer. Bringing the needs of the producer and the consumer together has been at the heart of Fairtrade from the start; the Fairtrade Mark itself is a symbol of the producer (with hand held high) and the person receiving the product, gesturing in greeting. 

UN reports on global hunger calculate that half of the world’s hungry are actually farmers, struggling to feed their families or make a decent living because they are not paid fairly for growing the food we use every day. The fact that so many hungry people are themselves food producers shows just how out of balance our global food system has become.

Fairtrade has made real gains in recent years, bringing lasting benefits to move than 1.25 million producers in 66 developing countries. This year’s annual monitoring report shows growth in the number of participating farmers, workers and producer organisations across three continents and across all major products. There was a 19 per cent increase in Fairtrade Premium returns to producer organisations and a 22 per cent increase in overall Fairtrade sales over the year before. 

Picture from the Earthtimes.

This is partially extracted version of the article written by Mike Gidney under the column of Fairtrade on the REFORM Magazine (http:// Mike Gidney was appointed executive of the Fairtrade Foundation in December succeeding Harriet Lamb CBE, who is now executive of Fairtrade International.