Fairtrade & Climate Change, 2021

25 October 2021

Study at a glance

Climate change poses a serious threat to agricultural production and to many farmers growing the crops that Fairtrade certifies. Fairtrade International commissioned a study to understand the potential climate change impacts on the production and producers of major Fairtrade crops. The study includes the regions and Fairtrade commodities likely to be most impacted by climate change, and the specific impacts they will experience.

The researchers, from Vrije University Amsterdam and Bern University of Applied Sciences, used three indicators of climate change impact: warm spell duration index (heatwave, heat stress risk), consecutive dry days (drought risk) and heavy precipitation days (water damage, erosion, pest risk). They also looked at tropical cyclones and depleted water basins. The researchers used a moderate (low-emissions) and an extreme (high-emissions) scenario to calculate a lower and upper range of potential climate impacts for each crop.

Severe climate change impacts will affect most producers of Fairtrade crops.

The greatest change is increased ‘warm-spells’.

Key Findings

  • Banana farmer with a bunch of bananas on a tree


    • More cyclones in the moderate scenario by the end of the century

    • More extreme temperatures in the high-emissions scenario

    • Producers in the Caribbean and Central America will be most affected by dry days

  • Cocoa farmers harvesting cocoa pods


    • More heatwaves and more days without rainfall in all producing areas

    • Considerable increases in days with extreme rainfall in the South America, West Africa and Central and East Africa

  • Sugarcane

    • More heat and drought globally

  • Farmer in Papua New Guinea picks coffee cherries at his Fairtrade certified farm.


    • More extreme temperatures and more days without rainfall

    • Producers in Central and East Africa, South and South East Asia, Caribbean and Central America and South America will be most affected

  • Tea

    • Heat stress in Asia and Africa

    • Heat stress and less rain, severely affecting producers in India, Malawi and Tanzania

  • White cotton bolls on plant with flower in a green field.


    • Increased heat and drought

    • Production already takes place in areas where water is scarce today

How we're responding

Fairtrade welcomes this report as a resource for farmers, commercial partners along value chains, and all stakeholders to implement adaptation measures and contribute to farmer resilience.

The results are alarming and highlight that the threat to the future of many supply chains and farmer livelihoods is very real. Combining the understanding of crop- and location-specific climate change impacts with an understanding of producer perspectives, is key to designing successful context-specific approached with farmers. All of these steps will require large investments, and it would not be fair to expect farmers, who contributed least to climate change, to carry the costs alone. Fairtrade is calling on all stakeholders, including commercial partners in the value chains to join forces and support farmers they work with by contributing to solutions to increase farmer resilience and support producers to implement adaptation measures.

We have in recent years strengthened the Fairtrade Standards requirements and increased the programmatic focus on environmental issues and climate change. Yet, the magnitude of the problem calls for more and wider partnerships to support farmers to jointly face the massive climate change challenges ahead.

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