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Is fair trade really fair?

As students, we will often look at the items on the shelf in a supermarket and opt for the cheapest option. Have you ever wondered why some bananas cost more than others? The price difference is often due to a Fair trade premium. Fair trade products aren’t limited to bananas. Chocolate, tea and gold, to name a few, can also be Fair trade. So, what exactly is Fair trade? The Fairtrade scheme was set up in 1992 and has aimed to tackle injustice within global trade. 

Countries rich in natural resources and export large amounts of produce tend to be amongst the poorest; they are exploited by more developed countries. Consumerist countries set prices by controlling the demand for products. Producers receive little money for the product in comparison to the cost of the item we pay in the supermarket.  

A product can be classed as Fair trade if it meets standards set by the organisation. Farmers must join together with other farmers to form a cooperative. 

Fair trade aims to increase how much money producers receive by setting minimum costs by weight and by giving Fair trade premiums.  

Setting a minimum value is very important for producers. Demand for certain products fluctuates throughout the year. When demand is low, the prices fall below what was already a poor deal. Setting a minimum cost, in theory supplies farm owners and workers with a steady income. Fair trade invests into communities through the Fair trade Premium, which is an additional sum of money. Money is awarded to the cooperative and is then democratically decided how it should be spent within the community.  The cooperative can invest the money where they see fit, whether it be t0 schools, increasing sustainability or building new roads. There are huge possibilities for where this money can be spent, as less developed countries often lack the infrastructure that we take for granted.  

Fairtrade sets social, environmental and economic standards for the workers and companies involved. 

However, the organisation has been under criticism for setting certification and inspection fees. Fees, therefore, increase the cost of production which may lower the wage that farmers receive. The money farmers receive is still very little in comparison to the price that consumers pay.  

Is Fair trade worth it? I think so. Although the scheme isn’t perfect, consumers have the responsibility to advocate for the rights and fair treatment of the people who produce our food and clothing! By purchasing a Fair trade product, we are increasing the demand for fairly sourced products which may help set better standards for workers. Fair trade should be the universally accepted minimum. 

Fair trade products can be purchased on campus at the coop. As a cooperative, they offer a range of fairly and sustainably sourced products. 

About Annie Davis


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