I N T E R N AT I O N A L Development Minister, Gareth Thomas today (11 March) called on major retailers to use their purchasing power to help developing countries.
Introducing a new £2m fund to enable retailers to join forces with African farmers and encourage investment, Gareth Thomas, urged retailers to look at their buying habits and the range of quality goods available from developing countries.
Speaking to figures from the food industry at the first ever ‘Procurement for Development Forum’, set up by DFID to work with industry to help create better life chances for people in developing countries, Gareth Thomas said :
“Buying from developing countries makes clear business sense – not only are you sourcing quality products that compete on price but you are also meeting the increasing consumer thirst to buy ethically.
“Industry buyers have a powerful choice – to make what they buy work for or against the developing world. Retailers are increasingly playing their part in making their product choices count – a million fruit and vegetable growers in Africa are already providing UK shoppers with quality competitive goods - but we can go further.”
The Minister praised the growing movement within the retail sector to think about the environmental impact of their buying, but made the case for buyers to expand this to helping countries trade their way out of poverty. He also briefed retailers on the ongoing work being done by Government to increase trading opportunities for the world’s poorest people through pushing for a breakthrough in the Doha round of trade talks.
Debbie Robinson, Director of Retail Marketing, Co-operative Food, said “It is absolutely the right time for Government to convene this forum. We need a dedicated space where retailers, food producers and Government can meet to discuss how we can collectively harness the increasing number of consumers who wish to support international development through trade not aid.”
The Food and Retail Challenge Fund will encourage new ways of buying produce from developing countries by the corporate sector through projects to help poor farmers and encourage investment in this area. It will pilot novel buying.