Fair trade has moved from the back of goodwill shops to the front shelves of supermarkets. Nestlé, Cadbury and Starbucks are now using 100% fair trade coffee or chocolate for some of their products – but people still don’t know about it.
Fair trade pays farmer and producers a premium on products ranging from coffee to cotton. Because of the premium they pay, many people still believe fair trade orange juice or bananas cost more than non-fair trade products.
“It is an absolute myth that fair trade products cost more,” Bruce Crowther, Fairtrade Towns coordinator said at the NGO’s workshop yesterday.
Crowther said the falsehood that fair products cost more is likely to have emerged during the early days of the certification service, when there were just a handful of products on the market.
“Obviously it was the case that when Nestlé, for example, would offer two-for-one offers on coffee products, fair trade products would not be in a position to compete” he said.
Fairtrade Towns says it regularly reviews the prices of certified products and has found in some cases products that carry the logo are actually cheaper than non-certified products.
An investigation of the cocoa supply chain conducted last year by the BBC found much of the chocolate sold in the UK – more than half a million tons a year – was in part the product of human trafficking and child slave labor.
The investigation revealed that children as young as five had been trafficked and forced to work without pay for up to 100 hours a week, beaten and underfed.
Yet, Crowther said, as more people over time begin to realize what’s really happening behind the scenes of unfair trade, they will seek out the certified products and the focus will shift from concerns over product prices to concerns about preserving human rights.
“When people are really aware they would never eat, for example, non-fair trade chocolate again. Quite frankly I don’t want to eat a single piece of chocolate if someone had to suffer to produce it,” Crowther said.
Crowther also said there are widespread instances of pesticide spraying while workers remain on flower and banana plantations. However, fair trade certification now extends to products including roses and gold.
Importantly the sale of fairly traded goods has increased dramatically over the past few years. Through collaborating with the private sector, the concept of fair trade is helping to increase the income of poor farmers around the world without the costs being passed on to consumers.