Campaigners staged a demonstration in Bexhill, urging a supermarket giant not to ditch Fairtrade products.
They said Sainsbury’s is experimenting with a new pilot scheme, which they believe is harming farmers in developing countries.
Jack Doherty, chairman of Bexhill Fairtrade Town Committee, said: “It has some advantages and extends some areas allowable under Fairtrade labelling. However, it is adopting a colonial type of behaviour on how the producers can use the important premium returned to the producers. Tea farmers in Africa have voiced their opposition to depart from the Fairtrade mark as it takes away their power where to invest the Fairtrade premium in their farming communities.
“Many Fairtrade supporters and campaigners are so disappointed they have written to Sainsbury’s CEO, Mike Coupe.”
A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “In May, we announced our Fairly Traded pilot on tea and we’ve faced a mixed response and particular criticism from the Fairtrade Foundation UK and wider Fairtrade network.
“Sainsbury’s is already the world’s biggest retailer of Fairtrade products. Ethical sourcing has always been and remains at the heart of our business.
“Our Fairly Traded tea pilot aims to build on the Fairtrade model, providing a guarantee that our farmers will continue to receive all the funding currently in place – with additional safeguards built in to ensure this crucial funding reaches those it is intended for. But Fairly Traded goes further than the current model with more benefits, including longer-term commercial relationships and individually-tailored support to help them make their businesses more resilient and sustainable in the face of unprecedented challenges.
“We do not pretend to have all the answers to the complex issues our farmers and growers are facing. But we do have their support to launch this trial and test what can be done to provide an even better future for some of the world’s poorest workers, their families and communities. We welcome the support we have received from our partners who share the view that there are always ways to improve, evolve and do things differently. Rather than shout from the sidelines, we would encourage everyone to be open-minded and see if the pilot can be successful and improve lives. After all we’re all striving for the same goal.
“By far the easy choice in these resource constrained times would be to maintain the status quo. Put simply, we don’t see more of the same as an option in the face of the escalating challenges facing our farmers and farming communities. That’s why we’ve launched our Fairly Traded tea pilot, and that’s why we ask to be judged on our results.
“It’s also worth noting that the pilot is cost neutral and there are no savings to Sainsbury’s business. Additionally, the price of our tea will not change for our customers.”
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