Contradiction exists over just how the recession is affecting how and what Western consumers buy. Whilst one study shows that 66% of consumers are still buying ‘green’ despite the recession, others show a fall in sales of organic produce, which has led to some organic farmers in the UK leaving the Organic certification scheme and which will inevitably have negative knock-on effects for small farmers in the developing world who benefit from the low-input, high premiums, organic production and sales can entail.

YouGov surveyed 2,000 UK adults in February 2009 on behalf of the Carbon Trust Standard and found that 66% say ‘it’s important to buy from environmentally responsible companies‘. Just over a quarter argued that environmental concerns affect them even more than a year ago.  In theory this can only be good for certification schemes that are perceived as more environmentally sustainable, such as Organic and Rainforest Alliance certified, but is what people say and do, two very different things?

The latest figures from TNS, market retail analysts, as quoted by the Guardian, show that there has been a 19% fall in sales of Organic produce in the 12 week period leading up to March 2009, when compared to the previous year. Are shoppers showing caution towards spending on more expensive food products?

As consumers, we have significant power in determining the fates of people and environments outside our own.

farming1Photo by DMahendra

For many small farmers in the developing world, participation in Fairtrade certification schemes, with its associated minimum market price and social premiums act as important safety nets when commodity prices fall and recognises the added costs for producers in participating in this certification scheme. Schemes like Fairtrade will become increasingly important in the economic downturn and should not necessarily be dismissed as unnecessary ‘luxuries’.

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