Magazine article New Internationalist

Fair or Free Trade: The Facts

Magazine article New Internationalist

Fair or Free Trade: The Facts

Article excerpt

The fair-trade movement began with craft and 'solidarity' products -- like Nicaraguan coffee. In recent years food products sold through conventional retail outlets have increased in importance. Fair trade in industrially manufactured products, like toys or footwear, has yet to begin.

Who's involved

In 1997 Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) brought together all the major national labels selling through conventional outlets, to harmonize criteria. By the end of 1990 fair-trade producers on the FLO Register included the following:

Fairtrade food products(f.1)

Bananas 6 co-ops & 2 plantations in Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Ghana.

Cocoa 7 co-ops in Belize, Bolivia, Cameroon, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Ghana.

Coffee 181 co-ops in Central America & the Caribbean (126), S America (41), Asia (3) and Africa (11).

Honey 23 co-ops in Mexico, Guatemala, Chile, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Vietnam and Tanzania.

Orange Juice 4 co-ops in Brazil and Mexico.

Sugar 6 co-ops in Costa Rica, Philippines, Paraguay. Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.

Tea 7 co-ops & 37 plantations in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Uganda and the Seychelles.

How much

They are as yet no reliable figures showing all the fair trade there is worldwide, or how much it is growing. Many fair-trade products are sold through alternative trading organizations (ATOs). A recent survey of just 30 buyer and 84 producer organizations revealed:(f.8)

Sales 1998-99: $138 million

Number of buyer staff: 355 men, 605 women

Number of Southern partner organizations: 1,414

Number of producer-organization staff (47 organizations): 567 men, 655 women; working with 31,892 men and 84,048 women producers whose average monthly wage was $89 for men and $66 for women.

Benefits of fair trade identified in a survey of 43 producer organizations:

- Training (technical, quality control etc): 61%

- Healthcare/medical allowance: 35%

- Product development: 26%

- Loans (for raw materials, equipment etc): 23%

- Organizational development: 21%

- Annual profit sharing: 19%

- Insurance protection: 19%

- Production bonus: 19%

Unfair shares

The value of a product, in terms of its final price, is added to as it passes through the market to the consumer. …

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