Laying the foundations for a fairer world today

The
demand for fairly traded, sustainable products is growing rapidly in
the UK, which is now the largest national market for such products. Mel
Young answers the questions your readers might be asking

What is Fairtrade?

When commodity prices fall dramatically it has a catastrophic impact
on the lives of millions of smallscale producers, forcing many into
debt and countless others to lose their land and their homes, creating
extreme global poverty.

With the Fairtrade system, farmers are
guaranteed a minimum price for their products. Coffee is the best
example. Smallholder coffee farmers gain access to long-term
relationships – vital in a rapidly changing global market – and receive
a premium (“social premium”) paid to the co-operative which goes
towards development projects such as providing basic facilities
including health care or improved access to clean water.

When did the Fairtrade movement start?

In
1986 Max Havelaar launched the first Fairtrade consumer guarantee label
on coffee sourced from Mexico. However, the origins of the Fairtrade
movement can be traced back to the Seventies when supporters of the
Nicaraguan Solidarity Campaign imported Nicaraguan coffee in an attempt
to support the rural farmers. It was a very political campaign but the
seeds of the Fairtrade concept were born.

What is sustainability and how does it differ from Fairtrade?

Sustainability
means a system which can be kept going on its own over the long-term.
Environmental campaigners use this often when they are describing the
future of the planet.

They argue that, as the world’s resources
are finite, we cannot simply keep taking things out without putting
something back. A sustainable world is one in which a clear balance is
set between what we take out and what we put back in, so that the world
can continue forever. We can’t keep cutting down trees, for example,
without growing replacements at the same speed or we will directly
effect the very cycle of life.

Sustainability can be applied to
trade as well. If we keep on with unfair trade practices the end result
is unsustainable because we end up creating vast swathes of acute
poverty around the world. Apart from the obvious misery it creates it
also has the very real potential of causing social breakdown. In the
long-term this is unsustainable.

Fairtrade simply acts as a very practical method of creating sustainability.

An
African village in Ghana, for example, can become sustainable because
the purchasers of its cocoa are paying a fair price for the raw
materials.

Proper wages are paid and working conditions are good.
The village is thriving. With Fairtrade a longterm trading relationship
is in place and unlikegiving aid, a dependency culture does not exist.

The
future of the village is very positive because it is sustainable in the
long-term. Fairtrade has made a massive contribution to that outcome.

How can we be sure a product is Fairtrade?

What is the Fairtrade Mark?

The
Fairtrade Mark is an independent consumer label which appears on UK
products as a guarantee that they have given their producers a better
deal.

The mark is awarded by the Fairtrade Foundation, a
registered charity set up by CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, Traidcraft
Exchange and the World Development Movement. It shares internationally
recognised Fairtrade standards with initiatives in 19 other countries,
working together as Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International
(FLO).

What is the value of Fairtrade? Why/how has Fairtrade been so successful in the UK?

The
UK is now the largest national market forFairtrade. Total retail value
of Fairtrade products rose to £140 million in 2003, from £92 million in
1994.

Awareness of the Fairtrade Mark has seen remarkable growth
in the UK, with almost 50 per cent of the population in 2005
recognising the Mark – up from 25 per cent in 2003. Awareness-raising
campaigns such as Fairtrade Fortnight have a huge role to play.

In
2005 7,500 events took place around the UK. The national campaign for
Fairtrade towns and cities has now seen the naming of the 100th
Fairtrade location and includes major cities such as Manchester,
Liverpool, York, Cambridge and Bristol.

What is the range of Fairtrade products available in the market? Is Fairtrade more than bananas, coffee and chocolate?

The
range of products with the Fairtrade Mark has grown from three in 1994,
when the Fairtrade Mark was launched, to over 900 Fairtrade-certified
retail and catering products in the UK in 2005. These currently include
fresh fruit, sugar, honey and rice, which was launched this year from
the Himalayas.

But it’s not just food products, the Fairtrade
Mark is now attached to roses, sports balls – from the centre of the
sports ball export centre in Pakistan. Cotton is the most recent
Fairtrade Mark product and is expected to be launched later this year.

Who are the key Fairtrade businesses leading the way in the UK?

Cafédirect,
Traidcraft, The Day Chocolate Company, People Tree and Tropical
Wholefoods Are people really prepared to pay more for Fairtrade
products?

In a recent poll (MORI, 2004), more than two thirds of
UK consumers have said they are prepared to pay more for Fairtrade
products, but goods still account for less than one per cent of their
individual markets.

The availability of Fairtrade products is one
factor still hindering the growth, as well as the perception that
“green products” are of inferior quality.However, in the UK 18 per cent
of the UK roast and ground coffee market is now Fairtrade-certified. as
is three per cent of overall coffee sales. Fairtrade bananas now
account for five per cent of the total UK banana market.

But is Fairtrade a sustainable way forward?

What are the criticisms of Fairtrade? Is it a robust system?

The
main criticism often cited against the Fairtrade system is that the
guaranteed price given to farmers encourages them to maintain their
focus on a single product, such as coffee growing, instead of
diversifying into other areas. This has the potential to result in an
increased glut in the market as well as single-crop dependency. But
lack of current alternatives when the trading cards are stacked against
them, and the absence of government safety nets for poor producers,
makes the current system justifiable. Those involved in the Fairtrade
industry are constantly looking at ways to improve and grow the system
– with the ultimate aim of creating a sustainable trading system with
poverty eliminated.

What’s wrong with buying regular coffee?

The
global fall in coffee prices – by almost 50 per cent in the past three
years – has left an estimated 25 million smallholder coffee producers
in the developing world forced to sell their coffee at less than it
costs to produce, resulting in widespread poverty. Yet despite this,
the four big roasters dominating the global coffee market – Kraft,
Nestl̩, Procter & Gamble and Sara Lee Рcontrol the major brands
and made profits worth over $1 billion in 2001. Between them they buy
almost half the world’s coffee beans each year.

What five things can an individual do to support Fairtrade?

1. Switch to Fairtrade coffee at home and at work.

2.
Find the Fairtrade Foundation Mark on bananas, wine, avocadoes, grapes,
beer, rum, raisins and many other products. The Fairtade Mark
guarantees authenticity in the supply chain. Change your shopping
habits accordingly.

3. Find your local Fairtrade shop. Contact
the British Association of Fairtrade Shops (www.bafts.org.uk) to find
out if there is a local Fairtrade shop near by and go and have a browse
and spend some money.

4. Join the New Consumer Club. New
Consumer, the UK’s leading Fairtrade magazine, plugs you into a
constant drip feed of practical ways to make a big difference to the
lives of producers and their families.

Members receive a 10 per
cent discount at the New Consumer Fairtrade shop. Go to
www.newconsumer.org 5. If your local supermarket doesn’t stock
Fairtrade products then ask them to do so. The Co-op stocks the widest
range of Fairtrade products, so if there is one near you start shopping
there. The Co-op stocks only Fairtrade coffee, for example. If you
can’t get to the Co-op then ask your local supermarket to stock
Fairtrade products – many more are doing so.

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