The complete irrelevance of buying Fairtrade
WE’VE got the usual breathless report on how massively, hugely, Fairtrade sales are growing in The Guardian:
Sales of fairly traded products have bucked the trend of decline in the UK retail market to grow by 12% in the last year. The value of Fairtrade products sold through shops reached £1.32bn in 2011, compared to £1.17bn in 2010, according to figures from the Fairtrade Foundation, as it launches its annual marketing fortnight on Monday.
Whoooo! It’s Massive, Innit?
Well, err, no, it’s not. It’s a pittance, an irrelevance. Retail sales are of the order of £30 billion a month. That Fairtrade value is an annual one. So Fairtrade is actually a huge and massive (£1.32 / £30×12 x 100, umm) 0.366% of retail sales.
Just to give you an example it’s as if the entire UK ignores Fairtrade entirely and but Dudley (yes, that one, in the West Midlands, about 200,000 people) buys nothing but Fairtrade. In the context of things it’s nothing, a rounding error.
What’s even more amusing is that those figures might not really be showing any volume growth at all. Sure, the amount of money spent rose 12% last year. But the price of coffee and tea rose 17, 17% last year and sugar by 25%. And yes, most Fairtrade is indeed in things like coffee and tea.
So it’s possible that the glorious advance from a rounding error to a not worth worrying about pittance was actually just inflation with an actual fall in the amount of stuff, the units, purchased.
It’s going to take some time, possibly until the sun burns out, for this Fairtrade stuff to make much difference.