Fairtrade International releases new guidance to help farmers cope with Covid-19

Fairtrade International announced new measures to help workers and farmers

Producer organisations affected by Covid-19 will be able to use some of their Fairtrade Premium funds to cope with the impact of the pandemic.

Fairtrade International announced increased flexibility in its standards to enable producer organisations, the majority of which are co-ops, to take immediate action to protect farmers and workers. The organisation hopes this will ease some of the negative impacts of the pandemic.

“Many farmers and agricultural workers in the global south are already beginning to feel the economic effects of COVID-19, although in many cases the health impacts are still to be seen,” said Gelkha Buitrago, Fairtrade International’s director of standards and pricing.

“The new guidance we have just approved makes it possible for Fairtrade certified producer organisations to make decisions and act quickly on things that will keep farmers and workers safe, or provide needed extra income during this uncertain time.”

The new standards were approved by the Fairtrade Standards Committee on 27 March and apply to all types of Fairtrade-certified producers, from small-scale farmer co-operatives to larger farms with a hired workforce.

Under the new guidance, producer organisations can spend Fairtrade Premium funds more flexibly to minimise the spread of disease, such as by purchasing and distributing face masks or other personal protective equipment, or by implementing hygiene campaigns. Furthermore, producer organisations can also take decisions about spending premiums on Covid-19 related measures without waiting for approval at their required annual general assembly meetings. They will instead document expenditures for retroactive ratification.

To protect hired labour, the worker-run Fairtrade Premium Committees will be able to distribute up to 100% of their Fairtrade Premium funds as direct cash distributions to workers, without having to make a formal request to the independent certifier, FLOCERT.

The guidance also asks all Fairtrade producer organisations, particularly those employing workers, to continue to respect fundamental rights and freedoms and pay workers, including those required to self-isolate, as well as to enable workers to keep appropriate safe distance from each other while performing tasks.

“We will continue to monitor the developments and assess the challenges in the implementation of Fairtrade Standards and will inform all stakeholders on any further temporary measures,” added Ms Buitrago in a letter to producer organisations.

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