Fair Trade Coffee, Chocolate, Flowers, Wine, and More

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Do you recognize this logo?  When it appears on a product, it has been approved according to international standards for fair trade—standards that support small producers in developing countries and promote sustainable farming methods.

With Valentine ’s Day approaching, there has been  a buzz about buying fair trade products for your sweetheart—chocolates, flowers, wine, jewellery, and more.  Many people who lean towards environmental and social consciousness are interested in fair trade, but don’t regularly purchase— due to a belief that these items are more expensive than regular products and that they aren’t easy to find.  Some of these products actually sit on regular  store shelves and are competitively priced.

Why Bother Buying Fair Trade Products?

If it bothers you that farmers and workers struggle to participate in the global market with poor working conditions and low wages, fair trade will be of interest.  If you are concerned that crops, such as coffee, cocoa, and bananas, damage the land or involve the use of dangerous pesticides, fair trade certification will also be a plus.  An international non-profit organization called Fair Trade International (also known as Fair Trade Labelling Organization International or FLO) has set up standards for fair trade that require:

  • Guaranteed minimum prices for farmers and producers that reflect the average cost of sustainable production—producers are paid the minimum price or the market rate, when higher;
  • Pre-financing arrangements;
  • Long-term contracts;
  • Labour standards, such as human rights, prohibition of child labour, and safety standards;
  • Democracy in producer organizations;
  • Prohibition of banned pesticides, guidelines for waste disposal, and other measures for  environmental protection.

How Does Fair Trade Certification Work?

Fairtrade International sets the standards.  Independent organizations determine whether the standards have been met at each stage of production and sale, until a product reaches the consumer.  Here  is my beginning understanding of how this system might work for a package of coffee sold with the Transfair Canada logo on it:

  1. A  farmer in a developing country, perhaps in Africa or Latin America, gets support from FLO to meet labour and environmental standards and to become eligible for fair trade prices, financing, and contracts.
  2. A  trader purchases coffee beans from the registered farmer and brings them to Canada for grinding and packaging. 
  3. The manufacturer registers with Transfair Canada for the right to use the Transfair Canada logo on approved coffee products.  Transfair Canada monitors purchases, sales, and processing.

 Buying Fair Trade Products

I’m convinced that we all benefit from a system that oversees production and sale in this way.  In future blogs I will be talking about products available in my local stores (Kingston, Ontario, Canada).  If you want to know more about fair trade or where you can find products where you live, there’s information at the following websites:

www.fairtrade.net  FairTrade International

http://transfair.ca/en  Transfair Canada

http://transfairusa.org/   Fair Trade USA

Some cities and towns have citizen campaigns to promote fair trade products—so check these out in your area.

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