What is Fairtrade?

The Fairtrade Mark is one of a family of national Fairtrade labels, which act as independant guarantees that the products are fairly traded - in other words, that the producers in the 'third' world have received a better deal than with conventional products. 

 What's the problem?

Many small farmers in the 'third world' are poor and getting poorer because they cannot market directly, but rely on 'middlemen'. They often:

  • get only a small share of the true market price
  • sell products with very volatile world prices and cannot plan thier income
  • cannot get information about what the market wants
  • can only borrow money to fiance thier crop at excessive interest rates

As a result, many small farmers are unable to properly look after thier crop, educate thier children or maintain thier homes. At bad times, many lose thier land and thier livelihoods.

Similiarly, plantation workers, especially on smaller and medium sized plantations, may suffer:

  • a lack of freedom to join a union
  • a lack of opportunity to participate in decisions that affect thier lives on the plantation
  • an unsafe working environment and poor basic living conditions

Fairtrade Standards

The problems experieinced by poor producers and workers in developing countries differ greatly from product to product. The majority of coffee and cocoa, for example, os grown by independant small farmers, working thier own land and marketing thier product through a local co-operative. For these producers, receiving a fair price for thier beans is the more important than any other aspect of fair trade. Most tea, however, is grown on estates. The concern for workers employed on tea plantations is fair wages and decent working conditions.

Fairtrade production conditions:

  • small scale farmers can participate in a democratic organisation
  • plantation/factory workers can participate in trade union activities and have decent wages, housing, and health and safety standards.
  • no child or forced labour
  • programmes for environmental sustainability 

Fairtrade terms of trading:

  • a price that covers the cost of production
  • a social 'premium' to be used by producers to improve thier living and working conditions
  • advance payment to avoid small producer organisations falling into debt
  • contracts that allow long term planning and sustainable production practices

More details about Fairtrade criteria can be found on the Fairtrade Foundation website details of which can be found on the links pages.

Charnwood - A Fairtrade Borough since 2006

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