Fair Trade

Fair trade contributes to the alleviation of poverty in the South through establishing a system of trade that allows marginalized producers to gain more direct access to Northern markets. This alternative trade builds on the producers’ skills and enables communities to play an active part in their own development, while at the same time satisfying a consumer demand in the North for products with demonstrable benefits to less advantaged farmers in the South.

The fundamental characteristic of fair trade is that of equal partnership and respect -partnership between the Southern producers and Northern importers, fair trade shops, labelling organisations and consumers. Fair trade ‘humanises’ the trade process – making the producer-consumer chain as short as possible so that consumers become aware of the culture, identity and conditions in which producers live and work. The significance of the fair trade model for improving conditions for farmers and workers lies principally in the potential for communication, mediation and dialogue with specific groups of individuals and workers. In general, a problem for the conventional supply chain is the anonymity and lack of capacity for contact and outreach. The significance of this was clearly seen in the issues raised around labour conditions on cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire, where the multinational chocolate and cocoa industry’s lack of contact with its suppliers was part of the problem.

Fair trade standards agreed by the Fair trade Labelling Organisations stipulate that traders must:

• Pay a price to producers that covers the costs of sustainable production and living;

• Pay a premium that producers can invest in business development and/or social improvements;

• Make partial advance payments when requested by producers;

• Sign contracts that allow for long-term planning and sustainable production practices.

Fair trade is different from ethical trade, which should be the minimum aim of all companies. Ethical sourcing tries to ensure that decent minimum labour, living wage, health and safety standards are met in the production and sourcing of the whole range of a company’s products. It should be noted, however, that labour standards, while applying to the considerable workforce involved in transportation and processing part of the industry, do not strictly cover or benefit small-holders, the majority form of production in West Africa, who are “technically” self-employed.

Although the Fair trade concept has been developing for more than two decades, the Max Havelaar Foundation sold the first Fair trade labelled chocolate in Europe by in 1993 (coffee had been launched in 1989) and the Fair trade Foundation introduced the same concept to the UK in 1994. Today fairly traded cocoa products on the market include: chocolate, cocoa powder, chocolate spreads and even cosmetics using cocoa butter.

Anti slavery international 2004

Anti slavery international also reported on a young man called Drissa approximately 19 years old who was bought down from Mali, once in Korhago, in Cote d’Ivoire, Drissa and his friends were offered what sounded like a good job on a cocoa plantation, but when they reached the isolated  farm they were enslaved. More than 300 miles from home, far away from any settlement, not even knowing where Drissa was trapped. When he tried to run away he was savagely beaten. At night along with 17 other young men, Drissa was locked into a small room, with only a tin can for a toilet.

On the farm the work was hard. In oppressive heat, with biting flies around their heads and snakes in the undergrowth, they worked from dawn till dusk tending and collecting the cocoa pods and doing other work on the farm. Often given only braised banana to eat for months at a time, they developed vitamin deficiencies. Weak from hunger they staggered under great sacks of cocoa pods if they slowed in their work, they were beaten.

I remember the channel 4 programme on the Bitter Taste of Slavery, at the end of the documentary, they bought back chocolate and offered it to the general public. They asked if they wanted to taste the chocolate the public said yes then they were told that it was made from the labour of children who were slaves who harvested the cocoa pods, the public declined to eat the chocolate.They were then asked why do you eat slavery chocolate?

This is something to think about, when you buy your expensive easter eggs, which do not have the fair trade symbol. Buy ones that do have the Fair trade symbol. Maybe somewhere in their thought process, the buyers of non Fairtrade chocolate might think again. One day on all the supermarket shelves we will not only see Fairtrade bananas we will also see Fairtrade easter eggs, boxes of chocolates, chocolate biscuits and drinking chocolate. Chocolate companies are either Fairtrade or not, you can’t have some of your products with the Fairtrade symbol on and some without where is the sense in that.




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