Fairtrade India aims to alleviate growing issues among Indian farmers

Last month, Fairtrade International announced the creation of Fairtrade India, a new labelling initiative that will promote fair trade products to markets in India. 

According to Abhishek Jani, CEO of Fairtrade India, “This is an exciting opportunity for India to demonstrate that it can actually lead on ethical consumption and show its support for our small farmers. Buying Fairtrade is an immediate way for us to directly support the poorest farmers, and the environment.”

Issues facing farmers in India

India faces a shrinking workforce in its agricultural industry. Since 2001, 7.7 million farmers have left agriculture as their main source of employment, and 15 million have left since 1991. The Hindu estimates that this averages to 2,035 farmers leaving the industry per day, and that with few job prospects, many settle for employment in the "lowest, menial ends of the service sector."

What's more disturbing is that an estimated 14,000 farmers committed suicide in 2011, and that there have been 270,940 farm-related suicides in India since 1995. These deaths have been attributed to issues of mounting debt from high seed prices, increasing costs of production, environmental impacts of climate change, and fluxuating market prices.

Fair trade and the small farmer

According to the Fairtrade India website, fair trade has helped farmers earn better prices and develop better terms for trade. The new labelling initiative aims to connect fair trade to its own markets, while also helping to strengthen its production and increase food security.

Jani, in an interview with SocialStory, says, "Agriculture is a tough business, it’s not easy being a farmer, majority of farmers are small and as a philosophy, we work with the small-holder. It’s a fallacy that small holders are inefficient, they are more productive per acre and in most case produce more nutrition per acre and at Fairtrade, we help unlock power of the collective."

Fairtrade International has been working with producers in India for almost 19 years. There are 121,400 workers and farmers working with 72 Fairtrade certified producer organizations. In 2012, 2.4 million Euros in Fairtrade Premiums was earned by certified producer organizations. 

The power of a Rupee

"We want to create awareness of Fairtrade and engagement with the movement in the Indian market," says Jani. "How many of us realize that every consumption choice is a political decision? That every Rs. 100 we spend is an endorsement for how resources are split across labor and capital, how the environment is treated and so on."

Fairtrade International has been supporting a shift beyond south-north trading models, and has established Fairtrade labelling initiatives in South Africa and Kenya.