Fair Trade movement and African farmers call for urgent action to put small-scale cotton farmers on the global agenda on sustainable textiles

The press release is available in French here.

The Fair Trade Advocacy Office has launched a position paper at the Cotton Forum taking place in Paris today, in cooperation with the Association of African Cotton Producers. In this new document, the Fair Trade movement calls on the European Union, G7 and West African governments to step up their policies in support of fairer and more sustainable textile supply chains, and to not forget about small cotton farmers. As a follow-up to the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment manufacturing centre on 24 April 2013, much public attention has been recently placed on compensation to victims and the improvement of the building safety, working conditions and wages at the garment stage of textile supply chains. Unfortunately, little public attention has gone to the cotton farmers that ‘grow’ our clothes.

In West and Central Africa, the 10 million cotton farmers face an unfair trading system and serious imbalances of power in cotton supply chains, a key obstacle to their livelihoods. Although state control in West Africa has reduced and farmers participate more in the governance of the cotton sector, the power of small farmers remains weak. Bottlenecks and gatekeepers between local actors and the market constitute a key obstacle to ensure a living income for farmers and a living wage for their workers. At the same time, West Africa farmers are also negatively impacted by unfair trading distorting subsidies in various cotton-producing countries (e.g. USA, EU, China) that result in abnormally-low prices paid to West African cotton farmers.

“We call on the European Union, G7 and West African governments to increase the trade opportunities for the 10 million cotton farmers in West and Central Africa” stated Moussa Sabaly, President of the Association of African Cotton Producers (AProCA). “Without small-scale farmers, there will be no more cotton in textile supply chains”, he concluded. Cotton exemplifies the inter-linkages between the various recently-adopted United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These goals are directly relevant to Fair Trade, a best practice multi-stakeholder partnership that, from the outset, has addressed the various dimensions of sustainable development. The adoption by the European Union, G7 and West African governments of public policies and initiatives
towards fairer and more sustainable cotton supply chains in the coming years will serve as an indicator of how much political will there is to achieve the new UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“The Fair Trade movement looks forward to working with the private sector and governments to make textile supply chains fairer and more sustainable, in particular for small-scale cotton farmers”, stated Sergi Corbalán, Executive Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office. The French Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Max Havelaar France and the Association of African Cotton Producers (AProCa) are organising today the Cotton Forum 2016 in Paris in order to foster new opportunities for economic and institutional partnerships between Fair Trade cotton farmers, textile companies, financial organisations as well as West African and European institutions. Representatives from African and European governments, as well as the European Commission, will participate in a workshop, together with FTAO, to discuss the role that public institutions can have in support of Fair Trade cotton.

“Cotton farmers are the first and forgotten step of a long and complex production chain that ends in our wardrobes. Economic and institutional stakeholders must enable those who grow our clothes to make a living with their work. Fairtrade is the answer to this challenge”, stated Dominique Royet, CEO of Max Havelaar France.


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