Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fair Trade

Why fait trade? Here is part of the answer from Global Exchange

Fair Trade Q&AQ. What is Fair Trade? A. Fair trade means that farmers, workers, and artisans:
receive a sufficient price under direct long-term contracts,
are small-scale producers in democratic co-ops (coffee, cocoa, bananas, fruits, crafts) or workers on larger farms who receive a living wage and can bargain collectively (tea, bananas, fruits),
don't use abusive child labor or forced labor, and
use ecologically sustainable methods. Fair Trade products bear the "Fair Trade Certified" label and the "Fair Trade Federation" logo. TransFair USA is the third-party certification agency that places the "Fair Trade Certified" label on coffee, chocolate, cocoa, tea, bananas, and other fruits; and is the USA's affiliate of the Fair Trade Labelling Organizations International. The Fair Trade Federation is an association of businesses that follow Fair Trade principles exclusively. The presence of the Fair Trade Certified label or Fair Trade Federation logo on a product is the only guarantee that every step from the producer to you has followed international fair trade criteria. For the specific guidelines, see the Fair Trade Labelling Organizations International and the Fair Trade Federation
Q. When you see the "Fair Trade Certified" label on one line of a company's products, does that mean that all of their products are Fair Trade Certified? What about the Fair Trade Federation logo? A. For the Fair Trade Certified label, only products that actually bear the label were purchased through Fair Trade criteria. The label on one product does not guarantee that a company practices Fair Trade in all purchasing. Fair Trade Federation members must follow Fair Trade standards across the board and are carefully screened, so its logo indicates total commitment to Fair Trade.
Q. If a product doesn't have the Fair Trade Certified label or Fair Trade Federation logo but the package talks about fair trade, is it considered Fair Trade? What about organic or shade grown labels? A. Unless you see the Fair Trade Certified label or Fair Trade Federation logo on a product, you can't guarantee any claims about fair trade status. Unfortunately, some companies use fair trade language to appear more ethical, and thus increase the appeal of their products. If a package has phrases like "fairly traded" or "your purchase supports fairness for farmers," or something similarly indicating fair trade practices, contact the company to ask about their purchasing guidelines. Organic and shade-grown labels are also not a guarantee of fair prices or working conditions for, as they focus on the ecological impacts of production. Shade-grown certification agencies may include labor and wage standards, but these programs focus primarily on larger farms rather than the family farms, and require only a local minimum wage, which is typically not enforced and doesn't come close to meeting living costs. Refer them to TransFair USA or the Fair Trade Federation to build the Fair Trade market!
Q. Why is Fair Trade important? A. Free trade isn't fair for farmers and artisans, their families, communities, or the environment. Fair Trade is. For example, a drastic fall in world coffee prices has pushed millions of coffee farmers and workers into malnutrition and starvation; and losing their jobs and even their farms. Some have even turned to drug cultivation t survive. Most cocoa farmers are so poor they have been using child labor, sometimes even child slaves. Most farmers get only about half of the world price because they thus are forced to sell their next crop in advance to exploitative middlemen who pay far below the value. Some farmers have also cut down the rainforest to sell the trees for extra money, or to make room for more profitable crops. Artisans face poverty and the loss of culture as the find the need to work in sweatshops. Fair Trade ensures better lives by helping afford health care and keep their kids in school; and by supporting sustainable production. Fair Trade producers also set aside funds for community projects like schools and clinics; and for training in quality improvement and sustainable production.
Q. Are Fair Trade products also organic or shade grown? A. No, but Fair Trade criteria require sustainable farming techniques, and offer an extra premium for organic production. Revenues from Fair Trade cooperatives are often used to train producers in organic and sustainable techniques like composting and integrating recycled materials. Most Fair Trade coffee and cocoa are shade grown and organic because these are the traditional methods used by small farmers- approximately 80-85% of all Fair Trade coffee farms do not use pesticides. Organic and shade-grown methods are important for the health of local communities and the earth, so look for these labels on Fair Trade to support the best of all worlds.
Q. If Fair Trade exists, why are there still problems? A. The benefits of Fair Trade are not reaching all Fair Trade farmers because there is not sufficient demand for their crops. Producers sell an average of 20% of their crop at Fair Trade terms, selling the rest through the world market at much lower prices. The same story goes for artisans. That is why we need to build a market for Fair Trade in the US!
Q. How can I support Fair Trade? A. You can demand Fair Trade- and accountability - from corporations that sell Fair Trade applicable products. You can also ask local businesses such as stores, cafes, bakeries, and restaurants to sell and use Fair Trade Certified and Fair Trade Federation members' products. If you're in a school, university, faith-based or community group, switch your purchases and fundraising programs to Fair Trade. For action tools and help getting started, see Global Exchange: globalexchange.org and the Fair Trade Resource Network: www.fairtraderesource.org
Q. Where are Fair Trade products available? A. Grocery co-ops and natural foods stores are the best places to find these products --and support local small businesses. They are also available at many large stores. You can find complete listings at transfairusa.org and globalexchange.org "Fair Trade"
Q. Are there other Fair Trade products available? A. YES. You can find fairly traded clothing, home and garden products, crafts, musical instruments, and much more at: Global Exchange Fair Trade Stores Fair Trade Federation Fair Trade Resource Network
Q. What about agricultural products from the USA? A.You can support fairness for US family farmers by buying local organic produce sourced directly from family farmers. To ensure fair wages for farm workers, look for union labels. Farmers' markets, natural foods stores, grocery coops, and Community Supported Agriculture are the best places to find these. Ask local stores to carry these products, and lobby managers of campus and workplace eating facilities to use them along with Fair Trade Certified and Fair Trade Federation member's products -- making fairness for farmers and the earth a comprehensive policy! For action tools and sources, see Food Routes , the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, United Farmworkers, and other organizations listed in the Links section.


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