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What does “fair trade” mean?

Which products are fair trade certified?

Cocoa, coffee, chocolate, rice and pasta are better if produced by cooperatives in the Global South. Here is why.

 

For example, let’s take a fair trade chocolate bar: it costs a little more than cheap chocolate bars (and a little less than expensive chocolate bars). The package reads that it comes from a cooperative of producers from Ghana:

 

1) Fair trade organisations pay farmers a higher price for their products than local retailers do.

 

2) The extra money consumers pay is invested in a fund and 75% of it is spent on social utility activities (e.g. the construction of wells and water pumps) and 25% reaches the farmers directly.

 

3) Farmers’ cooperatives that work under the fair trade umbrella are organised democratically: farmers meet regularly to make decisions regarding their work.

 

4) Child labour is banned: if you visit agricultural lands you won’t see a single child working.

 

5) Better salaries trigger a virtuous cycle in small communities: children who don’t work can attend school, villages with water wells are more liveable and happier (“You don’t have the slightest idea of how happy we are when water reaches our village” a woman said on a TV programme), wives can work with their husbands or create soap from chocolate production waste and sell it.

 

Meanwhile, we know that sometimes multinationals humiliate farmers by forcing them to weigh their products on scales that have been manipulated.

 

We have to pay attention to society’s and the environment’s needs. There are some areas of the world where planes spray plantations with herbicides even whilst farm hands are working, and labour or health regulations aren’t put into practice.

 

This doesn’t happen where farmers – whether they come from Chilean plateaus or from cocoa plantations in Ghana – cooperate with fair trade organisations.

 

Higher salaries are allocated to workers, who establish them in mutual agreement with the organisation.

 

Further examples? In Ecuador, CAMARI, the marketing system established by the Fondo Ecuadoriano Populorum Progressio, has direct contact with farmers and coordinates the management of working-class shops and the export of food and handcrafted products. In the Philippines, female farmers who live in the slum of Lloilo (the capital of Panay island) and are involved in two associations called Amihan and Kabalaka, harvest and process bananas which are then marketed by a fair trade organisation that employs workers’ representatives.

 

The same can be said of CONACADO for the production of cocoa in the Dominican Republic and CoopeAgri for the production of sugar in Costa Rica. In Bolivia, farmers called the cooperative they established in 1977 in La Paz “El Ceibo” (a thousand-year-old tropical plant). The 850 members sow, harvest, grind and commercialise cocoa beans by importing cocoa as well as cocoa butter and thus ensuring farmers higher prices than the ones offered by the market, a better planning of team activities and better product quality. In South India, Maphimuttur’s workers take part in decisions regarding productive activities, have medical assistance, shelters where milk and food are distributed for free and live in a healthy environment: they grow organic food, so their land is healthier.

 

These are good reasons to spend more money for a chocolate bar.

 

That’s why we believe fair trade products are better than others.

 

They are better in all senses. Our message is that food must be good. Not only for our taste buds. It must be good for our stomach, and respectful of the environment and production processes. Good for animals that give us their products – so it shouldn’t be the result of their abuse and neglect. And good for farmers and workers.

 

In this way, not only will food have vitamins, but also clean conscience nutrients.

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