FairTrade for British Milk Farmers
Tesco have announced two new schemes to make trade fairer for British farmers, though neither deals with the extortionate amount they are pocketing from our milk consumption. This is excellent news, and unless I’ve missed something, its the first time a FairTrade-esque system has been announced for UK farmers, who are often just as badly effected by supermarket bullying as ThirdWorld farmers. Thankfully, for once, Tesco have been listening to the protests and this time they’re working round the problem in two ways.
First will be the awarding of direct contracts, cutting out middle-folk. This will increase revenue for the farms, but not having seen the fine print I’m worried by two possibilities: that Tesco won’t hand over the whole of the saving, making this a cheap PR ploy off the back of a money making move. The other is that they are only offering 850 such contracts, which probably means the 850 largest dairy farms, which are likely by economies of scale logic to be the least in need of this help.
The other helping hand will be ‘localchoice’ milk (maybe a new Logo for our ethical vocabulary?) for which the consumer will be asked to stump up extra cash, but in return for which will be a reduction in ‘food miles’. One might be tempted to assume this means that, like with FairTrade coffee, the supermarket will offer a premium ethical product of which only half the premium goes to the producer.
But cynicism aside, this is great news for UK farmers and will hopefully be expanded over time. Perhaps this will finally prove that the principles of FairTrade can be transferred outside of the “Global South Farmer” context. Whether a new multi-producer, multi-product logo is on the horizon is another matter, but at least this is a start.