Retailers urged to commit to fair trade
Grocery retailers across Europe have become reluctant to stock ethically-sourced products in light the difficult economic situation, according to Frank Vermeersch from European ethical trading organization Agrofair.
Vermeersch claimed "a specific number" of European countries were suffering because of economic crises, and retailers were hesitating or were even afraid to invest in new fair trade ventures.
"Our personal feeling and advice is surely when we are confronted with a very unstable and challenging economic reality, conservative reflexes should be thrown overboard," he argued.
"One of the good examples is one brave retailer who decided to make the full switch to selling only fair trade pineapples from Ghana.
"The answer is to invest in every way and not just in selling fruit because selling fair-trade products is essentially all about people."
Vermeersch said there remained room for further growth in the ethical trading category, claiming that some of Europe's wealthiest countries were not among the leading consumers of fair trade fruit and should be the focus of future market development strategies.
As an organization, Vermeersch saidAgrofair had spent the past 12 months streamlining its sourcing program by taking the decision to focus on selling a limited range of fair trade fruit - specifically organic and conventional pineapples, oranges and coconuts.
The addition of other exotics to the range would be possible, he said, but only under strict conditions, meaning a strong commitment from retailers in terms of volumes, time periods and shelf-space agreements.
Vermeersch said Agrofair had noted increasing interest among retailers in the out-of-home, convenience segment, adding that the organization was currently screening further product possibilities for this market.
Despite the streamlining of its product portfolio, Agrofair's spokesman said the group was still capable of generating large volumes of fruit, even during peak season times when demand was extremely high.
This was partly achieved, he said, through Agrofair’s ongoing collaborations with fair-trade organizations around the world; a multiple approach which Vermeersch said enabled Agrofair to deliver a well-balanced, tailored package for clients and end consumers.
To further develop its market share, Vermeersch said Agrofair was making use of social media to communicate its message and philosophy directly to shoppers and retailers in close cooperation with its partner producers in South America and Africa.
"Expensive campaigns would not be acceptable given that we are a fair trade company who prefers to invest and improve the livelihoods of people in the Southern Hemisphere," he said.
"That’s why we have introduced the slogan 'Right from the Producer' and development programmes are always in progress within our multi-sourcing approach."