Explains what Fairtrade is, what are the benefits of using the products, are they more expensive and is Fairtrade or local produce better.
Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than a guaranteed minimum price), Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives.
Fairtrade means that:
When you buy products which carry the Fairtrade label, you know that they have been certified against internationally-agreed Fairtrade standards.
Fairtrade standards comprise minimum social, economic and environmental requirements, which producers must meet to be certified, plus progress requirements that encourage continuous improvement to develop farmers’ organisations or the situation of estate workers.
You will also know that the ‘Fairtrade Premium’ has been paid. This is money paid on top of the Fairtrade minimum price that is invested in social, environmental and economic developmental projects, decided upon democratically by a committee of producers within the organisation or of workers on a plantation.
Not necessarily, but Fairtrade products are unlikely to be the cheapest in-store. Whatever the price of the product on the shelf, which is decided by the retailer, the Fairtrade Mark ensures that the producers have received what has been agreed to be a fairer price, as well as the social premiums to invest in the future of their communities.
The Fairtrade price applies at the point where the producer organisation sells to the next person in the supply chain (usually an exporter or importer). It is not calculated as a proportion of the final retail price, which is negotiated between the product manufacturer and the retailer.
When there is a choice between a true, locally-produced product and a Fairtrade one, we would always recommend the local one.
Fairtrade is not in competition with farmers in the United Kingdom (UK) and the purchase of local produce and Fairtrade products are not mutually exclusive. Fairtrade focuses mainly on tropical agricultural products such as coffee and bananas that cannot be grown in temperate climates such as that of the UK, or products that cannot be grown in large quantities in Europe e.g. grapes and oranges.
For some items, such as honey and flowers, UK supply is not able to meet the total demand. It has been estimated that UK flowers and honey account for less than one-third of the UK market, so imports are necessary to keep up with consumers’ shopping preferences.
Other products, such as apples, are seasonal in both the UK and places like South Africa, so for as long as shoppers want to buy apples out of season there is a demand for fruit which is grown in the UK from other countries. Often, the choice facing shoppers is not necessarily between locally-produced honey and Fairtrade certified honey, but between Fairtrade honey and conventional honey imported from, say, the United States or China. What is important, however, is that we all try to make informed choices wherever possible.