Fair shopping despite inflation? Industry carries out an inventory | Free press

With a clear conscience through the supermarket – fair trade has grown significantly in recent years. However, high prices put to the test of convincing customers.


Cocoa, coffee, bananas – supermarket customers find Fair Trade signs on an increasing number of products. Spend a little more to help small farmers in the southern hemisphere, for example, have a better income – this idea is convincing a small but growing percentage of buyers. In the annual balance sheet this Wednesday, the industry is expected to again show a significant increase in sales after the corona damper. However, the prospects for the coming months are difficult.

What does fair trade mean?

Trading provides long-term prices at which producers can pay their costs and invest. Small farmers often come together to form cooperatives and sell their products at guaranteed prices. Fair trade goods are therefore often more expensive than the rest of the range in the supermarket. The price often also includes a social bonus that can be used, for example, to build schools.

“A living wage is a human right,” emphasizes Forum Fairer Handel. However, no one in the industry is saying that buying a pound of coffee will solve all the problems of smallholders.

In the beginning, market goods were only available in global stores or action groups. Supermarkets and discounters have been driving growth for several years. There are several seals. However, fair goods remain a niche product with a retail turnover of around two billion euros. This was how far the organic segment was in 2000, today sales are eight times higher.

What is being bought?

Coffee and tropical fruits in particular are often sold with fair trade seals. Textiles and flowers are also among the main sources of revenue. According to Forum Fairer Handel, a good six out of every 100 cups of coffee drunk in Germany is fair trade. The fact that fair ones are always more expensive than conventional ones is a myth for a Fairtrade seal supplier. On a supermarket shelf, there is often hardly any difference to other branded products.

How stable is the trend?

Over the years, things kept moving forward until cafes, cafeterias, and global stores were temporarily shut down during the Corona Crisis. In 2021, sales fell by three percent for the first time compared to the previous year, reaching just EUR 1.8 billion. The trade association now reports: “The deterioration caused by the pandemic has been resolved.” This is shown, for example, by the annual Fairtrade balance sheet. By far the largest supplier of gaskets was able to increase sales by nine percent to 2.1 billion euros in 2021. The industrial pioneer of the church, the Gepa department store, also saw significant growth.

Will inflation end the boom?

So far it is not obvious. “We’re not too worried about running into price wheels,” Fairtrade CEO Dieter Overath said recently. “Luckily, we have customers who buy out of conviction.” However, a drop in sales cannot be ruled out.

In the case of ecological brand products, buyers were noticing a tightening of their belts already in the spring. It is still unclear whether this will also be the case for fair goods. According to Gepa, this financial year is unpredictable.

In any case, the trade association pointed out that high inflation could be a problem. It is also a question of fairness that rising selling prices do not come at the expense of low-income consumers. (dpa)

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