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Unfair or better trade? Why where you buy your food from really matters.

New report from Sustain highlights systemic unfairness in the supermarket dominated food system

‘Supermarket Failure’ a recent research briefing by Sustain provides a bleak reminder of the current state of the UK’s food system. It describes a supermarket-dominated trading model characterised by low wages to retail workers and poor pay ratios between lowest and highest paid employees. The report quotes a stark statistic: the “highest users of Working Tax Credit – a benefit paid to workers with a low family income – was retail (£1.3bn) of which 37% is food related.” So whilst supermarkets might be providing us with ‘cheap’ food, we, the UK taxpayers are subsiding the wage bill of their low paid retail workers.

Low wages and unfair practices also characterise supermarket supply chains. Unfair trading practices by supermarkets financially cripple suppliers, farmers and in turn their workers. At the bleakest end of the scale modern day slavery is used to provide us with our cheap food. For more on this see the work of Felicity Lawrence.

Better Food Traders strive to bring planet-friendly food to their communities but importantly they try to do business differently. Better Food Traders trade directly with farmers (resulting in short, transparent supply chains). They are not-for- profit, which means they don’t worry about shareholders. Instead, they can work to ensure that farmers and growers are paid fairly, box scheme staff are paid fairly and that the price to box scheme members is fair too.

So if you care about planet and people then it’s worth thinking about how the money is distributed in the organisations that sell you your food. Then look for organisations like Better Food Traders that are set up to ensure a greater standard of transparency and fairness for everyone working in that supply chain. See here to find a Better Food Trader in your area.

For more information about pay and conditions for UK agricultural workers see Sustain

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