Lidl overhauls purchasing practices around tea

Lidl is overhauling purchasing practices to improve the lives of farmers in its tea supply chain.

The supermarket will work with its buying team, suppliers and NGOs to “strengthen buying practices” to address issues around working conditions and price volatility highlighted in an independent assessment.

Lidl will scale-up certification schemes with Fairtrade and the Rainforest Alliance in its sourcing of black, green and rooibos tea, and increase certified fruit and herbal teas to a minimum of 75%, as part of a “mitigation roadmap”.

The supermarket said learnings from the work including analysing risks in the supply chain, working closely and being transparent with direct suppliers, and remaining “open to challenging potential preconceived ideas or misconceptions”.

The roadmap follows a Human Rights Impact Assessment by Lidl Great Britain for the wider company, which was carried out to better understand weaknesses at supplier farms in Kenya. 

The report identified issues around wages, working conditions, living standards, and equal opportunities, particularly for female workers.

The report said: “Low or volatile prices and high or variable costs of production threaten job availability and constrain smallholder farmers’ and labourers’ ability to meet their basic needs.”

The report said up to 30% of workers were hired on a daily basis with less benefits than more permanent staff.

Global overproduction outpacing demand, currency fluctuation, heatwaves reducing demand and consolidation of buying power downstream, have all hit farmers' livelihoods. The cost of production – $2.15/kg – exceeded the average traded price at the start of 2020 – $2.00/kg, said the report.

Women make up the majority of the field production workforce but there is a segregation of roles based on gender, with men given jobs operating machinery, which pay better wages. There are barriers to women owning land among smallholder communities, even if they run the farm.

The assessment said: “Systemic issues associated with gender discrimination and sexual harassment within the Kenyan agricultural industry were identified, prompting women to remain a priority group for mitigation and remediation.”

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