The Fairtrade Certification Mark was launched in the 1980s, initially for use in the coffee trade, to encourage a new ethical means of trading by putting the producer first.
There was a recognition that small scale producers in the developing world were being discriminated against as a result of conventional trading practices, and that one way to help them improve their lot would be to ensure that they received sustainable prices for their goods. This was achieved by connecting disadvantaged farmers with consumers through the supply chain and setting social, economic and environmental standards throughout the chain. The familiar Fairtrade Mark shows that the goods bearing it have been produced using the requisite standards, so if you buy a Fairtrade product you know that the original producer will be paid properly, and receive at least the market price. The producer will also receive a Fairtrade Premium to invest in local community projects.
We’ve all seen the Fairtrade Mark on bananas, chocolate and coffee, but it also applies to commodities such as flowers, tea, wine, clothes and even gold; the same Fairtrade principles apply, and the entire supply chain is checked to ensure compliance.
One in three bananas sold in the UK is a Fairtrade banana and all of the big supermarkets stock them, so the market penetration of Fairtrade is significant. I have a particular affinity for them because about 6 years ago, when my son was still at secondary school, he was involved in the school’s Fairtrade Group. During Fairtrade Week he spent lunch and break-times dressed in a gorilla suit, selling Fairtrade bananas to his classmates to raise awareness and money. Incidentally, my research suggests that while gorillas are herbivores and happily eat bananas (and guava and apple) in captivity, they actually eat many different fruits in their natural habitat, but the gorilla suit was certainly a great gimmick for generating publicity for the cause. It also reminded me of a story that my Dad told about when he was a young boy. He was born in 1940 and bananas simply weren’t available during the war, so he was particularly excited to receive his first banana for his 8th birthday, three years after the war finished, but still some time before the end of rationing. He was so pleased with it, and wanted to show it to all of his friends, that by the time he was ready to eat it, it had gone black and mushy, so his first experience of eating a banana wasn’t all that enjoyable. (My Dad also reckoned that it caused him to ask my Grandma what gorillas used to eat during the war if there weren’t any bananas available, but I think that’s an apocryphal tale).
But I digress. As it’s widely accepted that the coronavirus pandemic is going to be disproportionately detrimental to the developing world, my request is that we all re-double our efforts to buy Fairtrade products where possible. There are over 1.6 million farmers and workers in more than 70 countries taking part in Fairtrade and many of them are also in parts of the world that are most susceptible to the vagaries of climate change. Our shopping choices can therefore have quite significant aggregate benefits for Fairtrade producers without us individually necessarily even having to spend more at the checkout. See: https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/get-involved/current-campaigns/fairtrade-fortnight/ for more information. Thanks for your support.