Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
From the first fair trade certification program in the Netherlands in 1988, today's International Fair Trade Association (IFAT) has grown to encompass non-profit organizations in 17 countries certifying a wide range of fair trade products such as chocolate, coffee, bananas, pineapples and other tropical fruit, and handmade crafts. Fair trade associations aim to build more equitable trading partnerships between North and South, in which fair trade certified products are produced under safe working conditions, with fair wages, gender equity, and sustainable environmental practices. Supporting strategies to alleviate poverty among marginalized producers in the global South are key goals of fair trade programs, which also emphasize principles of transparency, capacity building, gender equity, safe working conditions, environmental protection and sustainable consumption patterns.
Fair trade meets an increased consumer demand within industrialized countries for an alternative economic system that is just to both workers and the environment. A report entitled "2003 Report on Fair Trade Trends" recently released by the Fair Trade Federation and IFAT indicates that the production of fair trade goods in North America and the Pacific Rim rose by 37% in 2003, with sales now totaling US$ 250.6 million.
Certified Fair Trade coffee demonstrated the greatest growth of any single fair trade product, with total sales increasing by 54% in 2002. This growth has been critical, as the price of coffee has fallen by 50% in the last four years, a catastrophic loss for small producers. Coffee, one of the world's most valuable commodities, now brings growers an average price of US$ 0.59 per pound, making it virtually impossible for coffee growing families to support themselves. Fairly traded coffee sells at a minimum of US$ 1.26 per pound, a price that provides coffee growers with a living wage.
An increased demand for fairly traded coffee and chocolate in the U.S. would have an enormous impact, as the U.S. consumes one quarter of the world's coffee beans and is the largest importer of cocoa products. As a result of consumer pressure, Proctor and Gamble and Starbucks have introduced fair trade certified coffee, but so far only at symbolic levels. Fair trade coffee makes up less than 1% of Starbucks total coffee purchases.
Global Exchange, an international non-profit human rights organization, is waging a campaign to pressure U.S. retailers to increase their percentage of fair trade coffee and chocolate. As part of World Fair Trade Day, Global Exchange suggests a number of actions including call-ins asking Mars/M&Ms and Starbucks to support fair trade. To learn more about these and other actions you can take to increase the fair trade market, visit http://www.globalexchange.org.
Sources: "2003 Report on Fair Trade Trends", available at http://www.fairtradefederation.org; Global Exchange, http://www.globalexchange.org; World Fair Trade Day, http://www.wftday.org, One Cup at a Time, Poverty Alleviation and Fair Trade Coffee in Latin America, Fair Trade Research Group, 2002, http://www.colostate.edu/Depts/Sociology/FairTradeResearchGroup/.