Fairtrade Fortnight: experts warn bananas, coffee and cocoa at risk of becoming ‘endangered’ in new report
Empty supermarket shelves and stock shortages are becoming increasingly common, but the Fairtrade Foundation is warning that everyday essentials including bananas, coffee and cocoa could be at risk of becoming ‘endangered’ due to climate change.
A new report published by the Fairtrade Foundation, which includes analysis carried out by independent advisors 3Keel, has exposed the environmental risks that could lead to some of the UK’s favourite foods becoming endangered. The report reveals that the supply chains for bananas, coffee, and cocoa originate from countries that are vulnerable to threats caused by climate change, deforestation, and biodiversity loss.
An immersive retail space, ‘The Endangered Aisle’, opens today (28 February) in Shoreditch, London, to highlight the urgent need to protect the future of food and the small switches shoppers can make to play their part. The launch coincides with Fairtrade Fortnight – the annual campaign that raises awareness around the importance of ensuring farmers are given a fair price to cover the increasing costs associated with the climate crisis.
Visitors will be able to experience the reality of what the supermarket shop could be like in the near future, learn more about where their favourite supermarket staples come from and hear first-hand stories from Fairtrade producers about the challenges they face related to the climate crisis. Those who make a sustainability pledge will be able to take home complimentary Fairtrade products.
This follows research that reveals significant sections of the British public believe that climate change will affect their weekly shop, with 33% saying they think availability will be affected and 41% stating that it will affect price. However only 38% have made active changes and 23% are not sure how to help. Meanwhile only 16% of those surveyed check the country of origin of all the products they buy.
Supermarket staples at risk
- Over 350,000 tonnes of cocoa imported to the UK each year originates from countries where production faces risks including climate change and loss of critical ecosystem services.
- Studies suggest that many cocoa-growing regions in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire – which produce over half of the world’s cocoa – will likely become too hot to grow the crop by 2050.
- During 2001-2018, cocoa was associated with over 732,000 ha of deforestation worldwide – that is an area almost twice the size of Sussex which has been deforested.
- Cocoa farmer Sadick Abanga, from Kumasi, Ghana comments: ‘I didn’t know I was punishing the land, now because of this [Fairtrade] project I’ve seen the benefits, there are more nutrients in the soil. The training officer always comes to the field, even when I am not there he goes to my farm and tells me what’s good or bad, using banana irrigation during the dry season.’
- Almost a quarter (24%) of the UK’s total land footprint for annual coffee imports – almost 60,000 hectares of land which is the equivalent to 74,000 football pitches – originates from countries considered to be highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
- Under certain emissions scenarios, as much as 50% of the global surface area currently used for coffee farming may no longer be suitable by 2050, due to the changing climate.
- The land area required to produce the volumes of coffee imported to the UK is on average over 245,000 ha each year. That is a land area about the size of Warwickshire required to grow the coffee to meet UK demand each year.
- Coffee farmer Liliane from Sul de Minas, Brazil says: ‘We live and own property in an area very favourable for coffee, but, even so, we suffer a lot with the climate’s setbacks. To produce a special coffee, we need the climate. We are not in charge of the climate, but we can collaborate a lot with it.’
- Almost half (48%) of UK banana imports (totalling more than half a million tonnes of bananas) originate from countries with high climate change vulnerability.
- Supplying the UK’s demand for bananas each year requires an estimated land footprint of over 34,000 ha – an area about the size of York.
- Banana farmer Foncho, from Magdalena, Colombia belongs to the Coobafrio co-operative, and is currently part of a Fairtrade-run initiative – the Productivity Improvement Programme. Reflecting on the benefits, Foncho says: ‘We have been able to recuperate a great part of the fauna and the flora from our region. Every “peso” this programme benefits me with has an impact in my family. Today, more than the financial part, the main benefit is to recuperate our soil… Today my production is higher, the black rust control is better, I have better stability inside my plantation.’
Caitlin McCormack, 3Keel Senior Consultant, said: “The UK sources a significant proportion of consumer favourites including bananas, coffee and cocoa from countries that face potential risks to future production, including from changes in the climate and the loss of biodiversity and habitat that provide ecosystem services that are critical to farming. It’s essential that we work with producers in these countries to help them shift to sustainable and resilient methods of production.’
Mike Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, because it may not be on our shelves forever. Today, climate breakdown is making it harder and harder to grow food crops, making our food security ever more vulnerable. There is a risk that farmers will have to stop farming. In some worst-case scenarios, certain varieties of the foods they grow for UK consumption could become luxury items. That’s why it’s important that farmers and workers receive a fair price that will enable them to invest in transitioning to sustainable and climate resilient ways of production. We can all do this by choosing Fairtrade. Sustainability doesn’t have to cost the earth. Whatever your budget and wherever you shop, when you choose Fairtrade you support farmers to take care of the environment.”
The food Brits can’t live without
While it’s all too easy to assume that our food will always be available, stocked and ready to shop, the reality is not the case. We know how much the public love their chocolate fix, their daily cappuccino and baking that banana bread. Over 40% of Brits shared that coffee is the Fairtrade product they would most struggle to live without, followed by chocolate and bananas (both 31).
It’s no surprise, then, that nearly two-thirds (60%) of Brits say they would be ‘devastated, annoyed or upset’ if chocolate was no longer available to buy in the UK. Meanwhile, over half (54%) say they would be ‘devastated, annoyed or upset’ if coffee and bananas were no longer available to buy in the UK.
If challenges including climate change continue to impact and damage farmers’ ability to grow these favourites, these are at risk of disappearing from our shelves.
This research comes during a time when the nation is being impacted by the cost of living crisis. Farmers all over the world are struggling with fewer resources, and consumers worldwide are struggling to buy food to feed their families.
Two in five (43%) of consumers in our research said that paying their energy bills is ‘a bigger concern to them than climate change and damage being done to the planet’, while over a third (37%) believe ‘they are equal problems’. This is a clear reminder of the immense pressure the cost-of-living crisis is placing on UK households at this time.
At the same time, nearly half (44%) of Brits choose products that are sustainably sourced when they go shopping (for example, Fairtrade, organic, vegan or locally produced). However, around the same number (50%) say price is the main factor that would stop them from buying a sustainably sourced item.
Shoppers don’t have to leave their values at home when they shop at value ranges. Fairtrade products such as tea, coffee and bananas are available at a range of low, affordable prices at supermarkets nationwide, thanks to the commitment of major retail partners, many of whom include certified items in their own-label discount ranges.