Fairmiles Roundtable: banning airfreighted fresh produce puts millions of livelihoods at risk and does not help Net Zero

Over 200 stakeholders from 34 countries, representing fresh produce suppliers and retailers, academia, policy officers, and the international trade and development sector gathered at a Roundtable discussion on the 30th April in Brussels to debate whether airfreighted fresh produce should be banned in order to achieve Net Zero emissions targets.

The Roundtable was organised in response to recent airfreight bans introduced by several European retailers.

Moderated by Simone van Trier, attendees heard interventions from a range of speakers including Martijn Boelen, Head of Sector Trade at the Directorate-General for International Partnerships at the European Commission, Dr Ebenezer Laryea, Associate Professor in International Sustainable Development Law at the University of Northampton, Clement Tulezi, chair of the Kenyan National Horticulture Taskforce and CEO of Kenya Flower Council, James MacGregor, Development Economist and author of ‘Fair Miles: recharting the food miles map’ published by IIED and Oxfam,  Jeremy Knops, General Delegate at COLEAD,  and Steven Kerignard, Director Supply Chain LECOFRUIT in Madagascar.

During the Roundtable, James MacGregor and Dr Ebenezer Laryea revealed the results of the latest research by Fairmiles which suggests that at least 18 million livelihoods in developing countries are supported by airfreighted horticultural exports into Europe. This includes 1.25 million agricultural jobs and a further 2.4 million jobs in supply chains. The revenue and foreign exchange generated by this sector is needed to allow for domestic investments (including measures to reach Net Zero).

Additional points were heard including:

  • Farmers and vulnerable populations in in developing countries, despite being the least responsible for climate change, are already bearing the brunt of its consequences.
  • This raises the question as to whether it is fair to introduce a policy that will disproportionately affect the livelihoods of these same people, rather than looking at reducing CO2 emissions in other parts of the supply chain.
  • Transport of all food accounts for 1.56% of total global CO2e emissions. Of this, only 0.16% travels by air
  • The majority of airfreighted fresh produce is transported in the bellyhold of passenger planes. Without fresh-produce, these planes would still fly and bellyholds would be filled with other cargo.
  • In light of increasing restrictions, exporters in developing countries may be forced to investigate alternative markets to Europe who may be less demanding and potentially less lucrative for the livelihoods depending on it.

A poll conducted during this Roundtable found an overwhelming majority (96%) voted ‘no’ to the question of whether blanket bans on airfreighted fresh produce are a useful tool to achieve Europe’s climate ambitions.

Participants were also asked to contribute ideas for next steps. Some of the ideas that were put forward included:

  • More published research and data to better understand the key environmental, social and economic impacts so we can inform responsible decision making.
  • Science-Based Climate Justice Net Zero guidelines for policy makers and buyers – ensuring we can make a just transition and limit unintended consequences.
  • More dialogue and engagement with key stakeholders, including retailers, NGOs, consumers.

Jeremy Knops, General Delegate at COLEAD said “Agricultural export value chains are fundamental for low-income countries. Banning airfreight would have devastating consequences, leading to significant job losses and loss of income for some of the most vulnerable people in global supply chains”.

When speaking about measures being taken by the European Union to flight climate change, Martijn Boelen, Head of Sector Trade at the Directorate-General for International Partnerships (INTPA) at the European Commission, said “What you do not hear is that we (the European Commission), forbid to forbid stuff. We make things more expensive, we make sure there is a level playing field…. but what we will not do, I’ve not seen any proposals ever, is to say ‘ok you cannot fly in fresh produce anymore’”.

Following the Roundtable, Fairmiles will continue to research and raise awareness of the impacts of airfreighted fresh produce, and engage more with key stakeholders to seek how a fair approach to Net Zero emissions can be achieved without unintended consequences on livelihoods.

Don’t give up on African flower farmers this Valentines Day

A study conducted by Fairmiles and the University of Exeter has estimated that the livelihoods of at least five million people in Africa who benefit from the trade of airfreighted fresh produce to UK and European supermarkets are at risk by limiting flown food and flowers.

The research was presented during a stakeholder roundtable organised by the campaign group ‘Fairmiles’ to discuss how to take a fair approach to Net Zero without stopping vital market access for developing world producers.

Fairmiles is made up a of organisations representing fresh produce businesses, academia and the international development sector. Its aim is to establish a just and equitable strategy, consistent with the principles of Climate Justice to ensure we achieve Net Zero without stopping vital market access for developing world producers. Founding partners include ODI, University of Northampton, University of Exeter, COLEAD, Beanstalk.Global and Blue Skies.

The research highlighted that airfreight helps communities to thrive in global supply chains, enabling inward investment and inclusive economic development. It also revealed:

  • Very few emissions come from Africa, or air freighting fresh produce. Africa comprises of 18% of the world’s population but only 3% of emissions. Transport of food is 1.56% of total global emissions. Of this, just 0.16% of food travels by air.
  • Fresh produce is transported in commercial belly holds. Air freighted fresh produce on UK and European retailers’ shelves is enabled by UK and European travellers in commercial airlines. This provides capacity for air freight. Africa’s passenger traffic is expected to double by 2035. Increasing air freight can therefore help Africa to reduce the trade deficit.
  • Reducing airfreight won’t reduce flights. If we stop importing fresh fruit and vegetables from Africa it will have limited impact on flights that are driven by passenger numbers.
  • African imports far exceed exports. Africa has been a net importer of food for the last three decades. Nigeria imports ten times more than it exports. UK & European exports dominate trade.

Simon Derick, Head of Sustainability at the fruit manufacturer Blue Skies and a founding member of the Fairmiles consortium, said “it is clear that airfreighted fresh produce from developing countries provides a vital trade link that lifts millions of people out of poverty. Stopping this trade will do more harm than good, so it is in all our interests to achieve Net Zero in a way that protects and not penalises vulnerable communities”

Click here to download the full factsheet and summary of the research.

Climate Justice initiative calls for Net Zero guidelines for airfreight to protect vital market access for developing world producers.

Fairmiles, an initiative supported by a consortium of organisations in industry and academia, is calling for science-based Net Zero guidelines which balance social and economic impacts with the drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Fairmiles argues that in the absence of such guidelines, there is a significant risk that businesses adopt decarbonisation policies which overlook wider sustainability benefits and impacts, including Climate Justice implications for vulnerable communities within global supply chains.

While Fairmiles supports the drive to Net Zero emissions, the consortium makes the following points in relation to airfreight:

  • Airfreighted fresh produce from developing countries is low carbon and supports sustainable development. It provides vital access to global markets for producers, providing a route out of poverty for millions of people.
  • Airfreighted fresh produce from developing countries ensures consumers have access to high quality sun-ripened produce which is low-input, but with a very high social impact (in contrast, airfreighted exports from the UK are dominated by the salmon industry which has a comparatively lower social and economic impact)
  • Much of the air freighted fresh produce supplied from developing countries is transported in the belly-hold of existing scheduled passenger services from commercial airlines.
  • Targeting airfreighted fresh produce risks harming poor producers and workers in developing countries, who are themselves contributing very little to global Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
  • Ensuring that Net Zero policies align with Climate Justice principles is in accordance with accepted sustainability best-practices.

Fairmiles has been formed to support industry in ensuring a fair transition to net zero that does not marginalise vulnerable people in low- and middle-income countries. It follows past initiatives that have sought to raise awareness of the benefits of airfreight for developing countries. This includes a report published by IIED and Oxfam in 2009 which estimated how 1 to 1.5 million livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa depended directly and indirectly on UK-based supply chains.

The consortium aims to publish research to provide updated data on the impacts of airfreight and hold an industry roundtable on the 15th of December to discuss how to ensure a fair approach to Net Zero is followed.


Fairmiles has been formed in cooperation with Beanstalk.Global, Blue Skies, Air France-KLM Cargo, Beanstalk.Global, COLEAD, the University of Exeter, the University of Northampton and ODI. It is supported by a consortium of over 15 organisations representing African fresh produce businesses, the air cargo industry, academia and the international development sector.

For more information or to register for the roundtable event taking place on the 15th of December , please visit https://blueskies.com/global/fairmiles/ or contact simon.derrick@blueskies.com


New campaign launches calling for a fair transition to net zero for developing country food producers.

A new campaign for a fair transition towards net zero kicked-off this month.

Called Fairmiles, the campaign calls on policy makers from government and the private sector to consider sustainability impacts on developing countries when pursuing carbon reduction strategies which seek to minimise so-called ‘food miles’ or airfreighted produce.

The implementation of carbon reduction policies which target air-freighted fresh produce can disproportionately curtail opportunities for low-carbon agricultural products that support livelihoods in developing nations. This trade is a lifeline for millions of individuals in some of the world’s most impoverished and vulnerable communities, thus underscoring the need for carbon reduction policies to attain climate justice.

The kick-off was attended by 15 organisations representing African fresh produce businesses, the air cargo industry, academia and the international development sector.

The campaign aims to engage key stakeholders in the retail, government and charity sectors to highlight the importance of maintaining crucial trade links with developing countries and to make recommendations for reducing emissions without marginalising vulnerable communities.

Fairmiles has been formed in partnership between Blue Skies, Air France-KLM, the University of Northampton and Beanstalk.Global.

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