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Fairtrade - does it work?

(32 Posts)
Milge Tue 16-Aug-05 13:27:40

I know it has been around for years, but is the fairtrade logo on food/drink a real guarantee that the growers/producers are paid a fair wage, or is it all a bit of a con? We had a group of friends round for the weekend, and the subject came around to fairtrade, and a lot of them cast serious doubt over whether the growers actually reaped any benefit from it, whether the claims made on the boxes were actually lived up to ,etc, a bit like previous queries over whether disaster relief monies for the tsunami ever get through, that kind of scepticism. Are they right?

Tinker Tue 16-Aug-05 13:29:16

Don't think they're right but even if they are, I'd still rather take the "Well if only 1p of my money gets through it's better than 0p" view.

QueenOfQuotes Tue 16-Aug-05 13:31:47

I don't think they're right either, the rules for being able to label your stuff "Fair Trade" are very strict - and aren't just based on whether the people who produce it get a decent salary.

sarjon Tue 16-Aug-05 13:48:28

My lecturer from uni works for the fair trade union (I think thats what it's called!?) and it is something she is totally passionate about.

As QoQ said, the rules are very strict as to who can use the logo and all the manufacturers have to be vetted in order to qualify. I'm sure though, as with everything in this world, there are some that might slip through the net (cynical, me? Never!!) but this must be the minority and doing something is better than nothing.

QueenOfQuotes Tue 16-Aug-05 13:58:04

here is the 'basic' list of requirements to market products as "fair trade"

handlemecarefully Tue 16-Aug-05 13:59:31

Sounds like your friends need to change their Daily Newspapers

Saw a documentary recently about supermarkets forcing the price of grapes down artificially low leading to some growers in South Africa going out of business - adding to the grinding poverty issues for the now unemployed plantation workers.

Apparently you should buy grapes from M&S or Waitrose - they agree to pay higher prices thus keeping grape growing profitable in South Africa. The documentary showed some new homes built for workers on the grape plantations which are fortunate enough to have contracts with M&S

QueenOfQuotes Tue 16-Aug-05 14:00:59

HMC - I would have throught that grape growing in SA would already be reasonably profitable giving that it's one of the worlds biggest wine producers

handlemecarefully Tue 16-Aug-05 14:01:41

I've recently discovered that there is a fairtrade shop within half an hour of where I live:

The Fairtrade Shop
(Southampton) Ltd
106 Shirley High Street

just in case you or others on the thread live in the South.

I expect the Fairtrade Shop has other branches nationally...

handlemecarefully Tue 16-Aug-05 14:03:04

Well QoQ - the documentary was screened only last week and it showed workers pulling up vines and destroying them because the owner had gone out of business.

perhaps grapes grown for eating are different grapes to those used in wine production?? - I don't know really, it didn't cover that

QueenOfQuotes Tue 16-Aug-05 14:03:09

and also there's

this website which gives details of shops across the country selling Traidcraft stuff

diapergenie Tue 16-Aug-05 14:09:01

I think the only objection to Fair Trade produce that has ever convinced me is the notion that growers who benefit from the Fair Trade system are massively benefitted, but growers on the surrounding farms who are not being supported by fair trade become worse off as a consequence. I guess this is because until consumers in the first world start rejecting all non Fair Trade produce altogether, there is always going to be a economic disparity between the farmers and growers who can command fair trade prices and those who cannot, which will cause social problems within formerly unified communities. Then again, any investment into an area will drive up quality of life for everyone in the long term, surely?

QueenOfQuotes Tue 16-Aug-05 14:10:38

but then as those workers become better off, they're able to educate their children, who then go on to have the skills and the knowledge to better their families and their country.

Milge Tue 16-Aug-05 14:10:43

hmc, i saw the programme about grapes too - m&s and waitrose from now on.
I think they are fairly well informed - one is an MP, and another a former Euro MP, certainly all of them are very much into sustainability, green issues, food miles, are politically active and all educated etc.I am the only Sun reader amongst them. i think this is why i was shocked to hear them have doubts about the scheme. none offered any hard facts behind their doubts, though!

QueenOfQuotes Tue 16-Aug-05 14:12:22

but problems with farming in SA aren't just because of the price of goods...........there's a lot of politcal stuff (same as what happened in Zim in recent years) going on.

handlemecarefully Tue 16-Aug-05 14:14:06

Milge - serves me right, shouldn't jump to conclusions eh!

Did they back up their reservations with some examples?

Milge Tue 16-Aug-05 14:17:17

No they didn't, just likened it to sponsoring a child in Africa - it may make you feel better but it doesn't really have the desired effect. It might have been a throw away comment, but it did set me wondering. Certainly didn't provide any political facts/figures( not that i asked as they weren't in work mode)

QueenOfQuotes Tue 16-Aug-05 14:18:37

"No they didn't, just likened it to sponsoring a child in Africa"



But that does have the desired effect!!!

Milge Tue 16-Aug-05 14:24:07

Yes, i think it does, hence my Plan subscriptions. Whatever schemes for the good are set up, eg tsunami appeal, there are always people who doubt. Just wondered if anyone had any facts to back up their cynicism.

QueenOfQuotes Tue 16-Aug-05 14:25:14

it would be interesting to see what facts they have that show that a child being given a chance of an education and vocational skills doesn't have the desired effect in bettering themselves (and their families)......

Milge Tue 16-Aug-05 14:28:04

Calm down,I'm agreeing with you QoQ - i think fairtrade, Worldvision/Plan do good things, its just my friends offered different opinions and was looking for more opinions from Mn'rs.

QueenOfQuotes Tue 16-Aug-05 14:28:43

lol - I know you are

Just something I've very passionate about (having just become an "advocate" for Compassion UK).

handlemecarefully Tue 16-Aug-05 14:34:20

Next time they are over to dinner Milge, resolve to grill them in a bit more detail and get them to back up their cynicism

Milge Tue 16-Aug-05 14:42:00

will do, hmc. It was only after they left on monday that i started to think, and only after i bought my usual fairtrade bananas, sugar and tea in sainsburys today, that i thought to consult mn! Hindsight, eh?

handlemecarefully Tue 16-Aug-05 14:45:47

Problem with MN is that we all pretend to be terribly educated and informed about such things, but really know %$£& all! (well that applies to me at least!)

diapergenie Tue 16-Aug-05 17:50:24

I think the latest thinktank buzzword is "equitrade", which I think means trying to get more of the manufacturing process done in the countries that Fair Trade is supposed to help. Obviously this is difficult as many of them don't have the infrastructure because they have a history of civil war or violent conflict etc, but the problem with FT is that most of the revenue generated from the produce ends up in the coffers of developed nations. I read a statistic that said only something like 9% of the total profits from the average Fair Trade product remains in the grower's nation. So obviously, Fair Trade is helping SO MUCH but it is not going to alleviate poverty in any dramatic way. An example of Equitrade would be a chocolate company in Madagascar (can't remember the brand name) who not only grow the cocoa pods, but actually manufacture the finished chocolate product on site in Madagascar as opposed to just selling their beans at a fair trade price to a roaster in the west. This way 40% of the total revenue is kept in Madagascar, as opposed to the 9% that most Fair Trade producers end up with.

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