As October is Fairtrade month, we’ve put together a few things you should know.
Fairtrade is a global movement, with a strong and active presence in UK.
Set up in 1992, Fairtrade Foundation is the British member of Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO).
Even if you are not too sure what it means, the chances are you recognise this symbol…
So, what is Fairtrade?!
It’s a scheme certifying more than 5,000 products, identifying that the farmers involved have received a guaranteed minimum price for their products.
The accreditation drives public awareness of trade deals with the aim to help guarantee a secure and sustainable livelihood for producers. Today, there are more than 1.66 million farmers and workers in Fairtrade certified production companies.
By setting standards for farmers and companies alike, the purpose of the Fairtrade movement is to develop better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for both farmers and workers in the developing world.
Considering the heightened awareness of a need to improve conditions for those less fortunate than ourselves, it’s hard to imagine a down side to such efforts.
Are there any down sides?
Well, as an entity, Fairtrade cannot help all farmers.
As Fairtrade accreditation works only for those within co-operative structures, some poorer or more remote farmers are unable to form a co-operative.
Others cannot afford the certification fee. For example, Banana Farmers in St.Lucia must pay 400 Caribbean dollars (£91) individually per year to be certified.
As a result, some producers may pay workers above the minimum government salary requirement yet cannot be Fairtrade certified.
Additionally, studies by researchers at Harvard and The University of California indicate that Fairtrade accreditation for coffee growers has small to negligible positive effects. Growers receive the same payment no matter the fluctuation in price of coffee. As the cost to consumer remains the same, it is those in the middle of the chain who benefit from this fluctuation.
Fairtrade VS Fairly Traded
As an alternative, direct trade is becoming more prominent. Buyers purchase sacks of coffee directly from farmers in tropical countries. Usually, small suppliers are more willing to sell to discerning buyers who happily pay a premium for the very best coffee – so direct trade helps to raise the standard of what’s grown as well as what’s drunk!
Some brands are ditching the Fairtrade logo all together in favour of their own in-house accreditation scheme, instead using the term ‘fairly traded’.
The take-away message?
Stay inquisitive and ask questions. If you have a favourite brand, do your research. You may find they are raising the bar entirely!
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