JERSEY FAIRTRADE ISLAND GROUP
The Jersey Fairtrade Island Group promotes knowledge of and use of Fairtrade products in the Island. For more information about the Group, see the Home page, Who's Involved?, What Can We Do? and other areas of this website. The following headings give an overview of Fairtrade. For further details, please visit the Fairtrade Foundation website www.fairtrade.org.uk.
What is Fairtrade?
Fairtrade is about trade justice for poor farmers and workers in the developing world. Fairtrade terms guarantee fair prices for what the farmer produces, a living wage for workers, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and provisions to improve the health and welfare of farming communities. The Fairtrade price for goods remains stable when market prices fall and rises whenever the market price increases. A Fairtrade Premium is paid to the community at the successful completion of a Fairtrade contract.
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 20 other countries, working together as Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO).
What does Fairtrade mean for third world producers?
There are an estimated 1 million farmers and workers directly involved in Fairtrade. In addition, millions more people benefit indirectly from the investments in communities of the social premium. Fairtrade means better terms of trade and decent production conditions. The Fairtrade Foundation, with its partners, maintains these standards by regularly inspecting third world suppliers, and checking contracts and trade terms.
What products are available and where can I find them?
The Fairtrade Mark appears on over 5000 different retail products. They are available in most major supermarkets, wholefood and Fairtrade shops, and by mail order. If your store doesn’t have the product you want, please ask the manager to stock it!
Why are there not more Fairtrade Mark products?
It takes much time and money to develop criteria to ensure that new Fairtrade products really will benefit producers. The initial focus of Fairtrade was on agricultural commodities, such as coffee and tea, which have the most widespread impact on the livelihoods of small producers in the developing world. Now Fairtrade standards have been extended to rice, seed cotton and sportsballs.
My retailer assures me that they pay a fair price and treat their suppliers decently. Isn’t this as good as Fairtrade?
The purpose of Fairtrade is not merely to avoid exploitation of suppliers but to help make a real improvement in people’s lives. Fairtrade is based on a clear set of internationally-agreed criteria, which are independently assessed and monitored, and the whole system is open and transparent. The FAIRTRADE Mark is the only independent consumer guarantee of fair trade. If a company is claiming that it meets these standards, ask them whether they are prepared to subject them to the independent scrutiny and monitoring of the FAIRTRADE Mark.
What is the difference between Fairtrade and Ethical trading?
Ethical trading means companies are involved in a process of trying to ensure that the basic labour rights of the employees of their third world suppliers are respected. The Fairtrade Mark, which applies to products rather than companies, aims to give disadvantaged small producers more control over their own lives. It addresses the injustice of low prices by guaranteeing that producers receive fair terms of trade and fair prices – however unfair the conventional market is.
Is Fairtrade a subsidy that encourages farmers to grow more coffee and therefore contribute to global oversupply and low prices?
Absolutely not. Subsidies are government payments which lower the price of goods with the intention of encouraging their production and/or consumption or of making them more competitive than imported goods. The cost of these subsidies is borne by taxpayers or consumers.
Fairtrade, on the other hand, is a voluntary model of trade that brings consumers and companies together to offer small-scale farmers a price for their coffee that covers the cost of production and provides a sustainable livelihood so that they can send their kids to school and pay their bills.
Oversupply is usually a result of coffee growers increasing production in the brief periods when prices are high. However, it is clear that the recent surge in global coffee production, and consequent low prices, is largely a result of government agricultural export policies in Vietnam and large-scale farm expansion in Brazil. Paradoxically, in an attempt to compensate for lower prices, many small-scale farmers dependent on coffee will increase output at the expense of quality.
But our experience suggests that paying a higher Fairtrade price need not increase production; rather, it gives farmers other options – to invest in quality improvements and gain access to speciality markets or diversify into other crops to reduce their dependence on coffee.
Should the Fairtrade Mark apply to UK farmers?
The Fairtrade Mark was established specifically to support the most disadvantaged producers in the world by using trade as a tool for sustainable development. This will remain the explicit focus for the Fairtrade Foundation.
The Fairtrade Foundation recognises that many farmers in the UK face similar issues as farmers elsewhere, not least ensuring that they get a decent return for upholding social and environmental standards in their production. However there are also some major differences. For example, farmers in developing countries often have little infrastructural support, social security systems or other safety nets available if they cannot get a fair price for their products. Our Fairtrade standards, and our expertise, are specifically focused on enabling producers in developing countries tackle poverty through trade. If the Foundation diverted its own attention from this mission, this could potentially end up diluting the benefits of Fairtrade for the very farmers and workers we were established to support.
We agree that the principles behind fair trade may provide useful insight into the debate on improving the situation for UK producers. The Foundation is not convinced, however, that a labelling scheme is the right solution to the problems affecting UK farmers. A plethora of similar sounding labelling initiatives could result in confusion for consumers and undermine both the local cause and the global situation we care so deeply about. Rather than another label, the Foundation believes a more rigorous investigation by government and the industry itself is needed. This should look into the causes behind the problems being experienced by domestic producers, so that more robust and wide reaching policy tools can be identified – to benefit all affected farmers, and to reassure all concerned shoppers.
Are there many different Fairtrade products?
There is a wide choice of organic coffee, tea, honey, cocoa and chocolate products carrying the Fairtrade Mark and the range is increasing steadily.