Fairtrade

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The story says that Fair Trade had its ignition in the early 1980’s with Francisco Vanderhoff Boersma, a Dutch missionary, who returned from the Oaxacan mountains in Mexico to his native Netherlands to talk to anyone who would listen about the inability of Mexican coffee producers to receive a price that would ensure them a dignified standard of living. In 1988 he co-founded the first Fair Trade label. Today, Fair Trade commerce takes place in 125 countries (Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania), and total annual sales of Fair Trade products exceed $6 billion – sales increasing. It is based on a simple idea, which involves a mutually beneficial exchange between two parties: producers and consumers. Its purpose is to improve the living and working conditions of small farmers and workers, and it depends on solidarity with people who are willing to pay more for a product to ensure that their purchase has a positive impact on producers. The goal is to empower producers and their organizations so that they can not only earn a fair price for their goods, but also take control of their businesses and reinvest in their communities. While middlemen, whether they are independent operators or employees of transnational companies, take advantage of the producers’ isolation and lack of market knowledge, Fair Trade organizations try to eliminate them and thereby shortening the supply chain in order to increase the producers’ income and product quality. The crucial element of the Fair Trade system is of course: certification. The role of certification is to make sure that all stakeholders in each supply chain meet an established set of trade, labor, and environmental standards. From the beginning, the main Fair Trade product has been coffee, but the list of certified goods has expanded to include other agricultural products such as cocoa, honey, rice, cotton, sugar, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and so forth. Although the consumption of Fair Trade products is increasing, they represent a small fraction of the overall market for coffee and other commodities. An estimated 25 million small producers make up 70 percent of worldwide coffee production, but sales of Fair Trade coffee account for only 2 percent of total production. Apart from the seemingly rising Fair Trade offering, there is a growing group of coffee growers, roasters, and importers who believe that Fair Trade-certified coffee is not living up to its chief promise to reduce poverty. Among the concerns are that the premiums paid by consumers are not going directly to farmers, the quality of Fair Trade coffee is uneven, and the model is technologically outdated. Critiques say that Fair Trade has evolved from an economic and social justice movement to largely a marketing model for ethical consumerism.

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