Thursday, 15 March 2007

Be Fair, Feel Good!

We have all heard of fair trade in our local supermarkets, if you haven't here is a quick intro...

The FAIRTRADE Mark is an independent consumer label which appears on products as an independent guarantee that disadvantaged producers in the developing world are getting a better deal. As always, Wikipedia hits the nail right on the head

So why buy these products? Lets take a look.

The story of Toledo Cocao Growers Association (TCGA) is a perfect example of how much Fair Trade makes a difference. The cooperative has about 126 members and is located in the Toledo region of Belize, which is the poorest in district in the country.

The Beginnings of TCGA The cooperative was formed in 1986 in order to yield higher prices, improve living conditions, and help farmers increase the quality of their cocoa. TCGA's cocoa is grown organically and under a canopy of shade trees including valuable timbers of mahogany, cedar and teak. Farmers also use sustainable methods such as composting and typically grow a diversity of other food crops among their cocoa. Organic production keeps the river water pesticide-free. The preserved shade canopy makes the area a good carbon sink and supports a wide variety of natural species, including at least 187 kinds of birds.

Until the early 1990s TCGA's farmers earned enough from their cocoa to buy clothes, basic necessities and a variety of foods. However, the price of cocoa was suddenly cut in half between 1992 and 1993, falling below the cost of production.

Fortunately, a chocolate company from the United Kingdom called Green and Black's offered a long-term contract for a stable supply of quality cocoa. They agreed to buy all the cocoa TCGA could produce at an above-market price. The cocoa was used to create Maya Gold Chocolate, which was introduced in March 1994 bearing the Fairtrade Mark, denoting Fair Trade certification in the UK. The long-term contracts Fair Trade offers have given the farmers the confidence to make long term plans to improve their production. Many who had abandoned their crops have now returned to their home communities to resume their traditional, sustainable lifestyles.

That was the first product in the UK to bear the mark, there are now 2000 but still the sales represent only 0.5-5% in their product catagories.

Take a look the latest newsletter , or better still, put a product in your trolley and feel good!


Helen said...

There is a long running debate between the advocates of Fair Trade and those of the less well-known Rainforest Alliance. In differing ways, both promote sustainability for coffee farmers in developing countries so we should consider that they are both doing a good thing.

The debate for me comes in when you get to the supermarket shelf. If you are a price sensitive consumer, your eyes will not reach the top shelves housing these products as in most cases there is a premium price to pay for substituting "normal" for ethical.

Should we be therefore looking to the manufacturers to challenge their pricing strategies and open up ethical products to the mainstream market?

Helen said...

An omission on my part from the post above, it's not all about coffee. Check out the link
or look for the green frog next time you are in the supermarket.