Fairtrade farmers slapped with £100,000 Brexit tariffs
Wednesday, 3 February 2021 | Joanna
I came across Richard Wiafe almost by accident. My friend Stefan works for the Fairtrade Foundation and is in charge of their inbox. Richard had written a song about Fairtrade and wanted as many people as possible to hear it, so he emailed the Fairtrade Foundation with a link to his song on Spotify.
At the time I was looking for ideas for the Fairtrade Connections Community Arts Festival and Stefan thought Richard would be a good fit for the programme. We set up a meeting with Richard and his boss Kofi who told us about the amazing work being done by the Golden Exotics Fairtrade banana company in the greater Accra area.
All was going well and Richard was excited to be part of the project, writing new songs about his experience of Fairtrade. He explained more in this short biography:
"Lack of financial support almost made me give up education, until I was employed at Golden Exotics as a farm hand. I realised that I could get support from there, through the Fairtrade premium and am studying Bsc.in Integrated Development Studies. I actually want to become a Human Right activist/advocate
I discovered my potential/talent in music at an early age when I began to write and perform local Gospel songs but never recorded them due to financial constraints. As soon as I was employed at Golden Exotics I heard of Fairtrade and decided to learn much about it, at a point I decided to interrogate some of the workers in the company who are the beneficiaries of the Fairtrade premium, The response from them and the projects the Fairtrade premium committee had undertaken with the premium money inspired me to write and record my first song "Welcome Fairtrade". Subsequently I've written and recorded new songs titled "Choose the world you want" and "We stand with farmers". These songs are to support the upcoming Fairtrade Fortnight Festival in the UK with (All's Fair owner) Joanna Pollard who has been a blessing and a motivation ever since we knew each other.
I want to use my music as a tool to influence consumers of Fairtrade products and all stakeholders involved to inform them that the premium workers are receiving is being used for a good cause. It is my dream to work with Fairtrade to push this agenda far and make a reality. I have more songs to write and record for Fairtrade."
But dark clouds were looming and when a shipment of bananas from Golden Exotics arrived in the UK in January the importers found a nasty surprise. Despite the fact that on 31 December 2020 the UK and Ghanaian governments issued a Joint Ministerial Statement which said "Today we are pleased to announce that we have reached a consensus on the main elements of a new trade agreement. This provides the basis to replicate, the effects of the existing trade relationship between the UK and Ghana, the UK moved Ghana onto the 'General Framework" of its trade preference scheme for developing countries.
This meant that under the terms of this scheme bananas (including Fairtrade bananas) from Ghana face a tariff of £95 per 1000kg or 9.5p on each 1kg of bananas.
So far importers have paid in excess of £100,000 in tariffs as this article in the Independent outlines. They are making a loss on every single shipment. This is clearly an unsustainable situation and it is not clear what purpose the tariffs are serving. If this continues and orders from Ghana have to be reduced, it will be the Fairtrade farmers and workers who will suffer. The UK claims to support trade as a way for countries to make their way out of poverty, and yet in this case is not acting on this principle.
On Friday 5 February the trade deal with Ghana came into effect, and in the days beforehand we called on our supporters to email Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade to ask her to enact the trade agreement immediately and save the livelihoods of Richard and his friends and colleagues. We in the Fairtrade community have worked so hard over 25 years to ensure that people like Richard fulfil their potential, and it's vital that Ghanaian farmers and workers are able to send their goods tariff free to the UK - which represents 40% of their export market.
Tim Aldred, Head of Policy at the Fairtrade Foundation, wrote this blog in response to the deal: