23 July 2012 | Posted by simon in Our View of the World
We got a little bit hot under the collar last week in response to an article in the Trade Aid Pick of the Crop newsletter. We have a great respect for Trade Aid and the work that they do to support small craft and food producers. It’s good to have healthy debate around these issues. Here’s what we think…
We believe independent certification is key
The great thing about Fairtrade and the Fairtrade Labeling Organisation is that they don’t have anything to sell.
They are not trying to be better or fairer than anyone else so they can profit from the sale of their own goods. They are educating consumers and gaining their trust in order to shine a light on some of the appaling corporate practices that have led to the injustice and poverty suffered by people growing coffee and sugar and chocolate and bananas in developing nations, so the people who labour to grow these goods can profit from them rather than be exploited. More…
That’s why they’re fiercely independent because if they were selling products and certifying those same products they could be accused of doing so in their own self-interest and not be held accountable to their customers and the people they are purporting to help by an independent third party.
Fairtrade’s sole interest is to establish a fair price for producers and to maintain standards that assure consumers the food and other Fairtrade goods they purchase are guaranteed to provide environmental care health, wellbeing and social justice for those producers – so they get the fair deal they deserve.
We see a lot of self appointed certifications by brands claiming to be ethical in supermarkets and shops and here at All Good we don’t think it’s right or that they have the right to call themselves fair or ethical or green unless they can get a reputable independent authority to verify their claims.
Our Experience in El Guabo
We’ve just come back from a trip to Ecuador to meet the farmers who grow our bananas. Like Trade Aid, we believe it’s incredibility important to meet the growers, their families, the workers, doctors, teachers, children, truck drivers and everyone we can in their communities to fully understand and appreciate their work and lives. To see first hand the difference Fairtrade is making and to make sure they’re working to the standards we believe are integral to a fair trading model.
While we were there we met farmers Pedro & Graciella (pictured) who used to sell their bananas to intermediaries representing multi-national banana exporters. These intermediaries would commit to buy Pedro & Graciella’s bananas at a set price no less than the government mandated minimum. On the day Pedro & Graciella were harvesting their bananas the intermediary would call and say the price they’d agreed for the harvest had changed to less than the official minimum price. Because they were in the middle of harvesting it was impossible to find another buyer so Pedro & Graciella were forced to accept the lower price or leave their bananas to rot.In Pedro & Graciella’s own words “this was heartbreaking”. Because they, in turn, were committed to pay the bananeros they work with and cover all the other costs of production – more than they were earning from the price they were forced to pay per box. If they wanted to stay in business, keep their farm and look after the bananeros they would have to find another way. That way was Fairtrade.
Today, the El Guabo Association includes 450 banana farmers. Conditions have significantly improved for more than 2,000 rural families. Famers have been empowered to take full control of the way their bananas are sold from farm to port, setting up the Association’s own export department and operating through a trading company, Agrofair, which is part owned by El Guabo. Twenty per cent of El Guabo’s Fairtrade banana production is also certified organic.
Everyone who works in the El Guabo Association’s Fairtrade farms is protected from the use of agri-chemicals, they get a fair wage, healthcare, schooling for their children and job security.
I don’t think any of them will tell you that the standards of Fairtrade aren’t high enough.