This is a followup to the Fair Trade Coffee Presentation that was given at the October 2010 general council meeting.
You can view the Free Trade Coffee powerpoint presentation here:
Thanks for letting us
come in and present. Mark hasn't presented on Fair Trade before as I am the
main Fair Trade Coordinator in the group and I understand that a couple of
questions came up that he wasn't fully able to answer. Can you forward this
message to the particular individuals that brought up the concerns?
I believe there was a concern that producers had to pay more. I'm not sure about the context of that comment but I presume it was generated by two facts: 1. Farmers do have to pay Transfair a fee to get the labeling - this is to offset the cost for Transfair's work and 2. Transfair does impose quality controls so that the product is of export quality and that can also drive up the cost of production.
It should be noted that despite 1 and 2, farmers make more money in profit through the Certification system than they would otherwise and that is the proper thing that comparisons should be based on. Both the labeling and the higher quality allow farmers to make a higher profit which is the GOAL. Also, with both 1 and 2, if the farm is too small to be able to afford the initial inputs, Transfair offers loans and donations so that no farm is hindered from entering the Fair Trade market because of limitations in finances.
The truth remains that many farms that are qualified to be Fair Trade Certified still cannot get the Certification but the cause of this is lack of consumer demand. Even for farms that ARE Fair Trade Certified in terms of labour standards, farmers are forced to sell about 80% of their crop in the regular market for a lower price because of this lack of demand from consumers. So, unfortunately many farms that want the labeling cannot get it, but even if they got the labeling, without the demand there is no gain for the farmer anyways.
I believe there was also a concern about the 'price' of Fair Trade Certified products to the consumer. The ultimate vision of Fair Trade is to shift the money from the consumer more evenly to the producer, the manufacturer and the distributor - right now a majority of it ends up with the manufacturer and the distributor and hardly anything goes to the producer. The actual cost to the consumer is not meant to change but again because of the fact that so far a majority of the companies that support FTC are smaller and unable to produce the same way in mass quantity the price will be slightly higher. But, we can see with a company like Cadbury, when they converted their milk chocolate bars into the Fair Trade Certified line, they are able to sell their Certified bars at the same price as all their other bars. Also, I don't think it can be denied that chocolate, coffee, tea, sugar etc are all luxury products that no one needs so I don't think it's unfair to ask that consumers that choose to consume these items take into consideration the people that made the product. About 50% of the cocoa that comes into Canada is made through bonded child labour in the Ivory Coast - this is an indisputable fact that is mentioned in trade textbooks and not some conspiracy statistic. BBC has done news stories on this as well. Child labour may be justifiable but bonded child labour is something very different. Consumers have a certain expectation for how much a 'chocolate bar' or a cup of coffee should cost but the sacrifice is in human lives across the world.
Thank you again for inviting us to present. I would like to continue this conversation with you if there is still concern. On a more personal note and not intending to make a low-ball comment: I was raised in the Catholic Church and know about the emphasis on loving your neighbor in the faith. To me every time a product is bought, every person that was involved in the making of the product becomes our neighbor at that instant. We'd all have to increase our charity work by seven times to compensate for the purchasing choices we make just to be 'fair'.