One of the rapidly growing areas of modern "sustainable" agriculture is the movement of "fair trade» (Fair Trade). This movement advocates fair international labor standards, environmental and social regulation on agricultural products and handcrafts. In particular, this movement focuses on the export of goods from developing to developed countries. The system of production and sales of these products is designed to help farmers in poor countries get a decent wage for their work. In order to achieve the optimum cost structure of products it is obligatory to minimize the number of intermediaries between the farmer and the buyer. Production of "fair trade" goods is a characteristic of developing countries (the poorest nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America), and only for certain groups of products including tropical fruits, tea, coffee, chocolate, etc. all products are certified and labeled.
The movement of "fair trade" was born in the 50s in XX, but started to develop rapidly only in this century. Total sales of fair trade products in 2010 amounted to 2.3 billion euros in 2009 were estimated at 1.6 billion. Euro. The growth of coffee production in "fair trade" areas in 2009 was 53%, cocoa - 93%, bananas - 31%, tea - 49% (Miller, 2010).
"Fair trade" food is also often produced in compliance with organic farming principles. Nowadays, more and more consumers try to choose products that are marked with these two items simultaneously. As a result, about 80% of currently marketed organic coffee is certified as "fair trade" and a similar situation with organic chocolate, tea, and some other foods.
Nowadays we often hear the term "fair trade" (Fair Trade) in various advertisements. Fair trade clothing, food, and coffee are one of the most common products sold to the general public on a daily basis. The exclusive research carried out for Marketing Week shows too few consumers are aware of the diversity of products or the range of retailers that stock them ("Marketing Week" n.d., para. 1). Therefore it is difficult to understand for the ordinary consumers weather this investment is worth their money. So what benefits does the Fair Trade have?
Firstly, it creates opportunities for the poor manufacturers in developing countries. Fighting against poverty by means of trade is a key part of WFTO objectives. The international organization supports small manufacturers such as independent family businesses as well as associations. It aims to save them from financial instability and poverty and gain economic independence and self-sufficiency.
Secondly, Fair Trade guarantees the absence of forced and child labor. The organization adheres to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and national / local laws on child labor. Children can volunteer to be part of the production process and any involvement of young people must be open and well controlled. In addition, the child’s employment should not affect its health, safety, education or the need to have a rest.
Thirdly, it is ensuring good working conditions. According to International Trade forum researches small farmers in developing countries who produce some of the world's favorite fruit and beverages still find themselves getting pennies for products that sell for several dollars in the rich world's supermarkets ("International Trade forum" n.d., para. 2). It is considered that if you work in a company or factory you belong to the union, which defends your rights and provides good working conditions. But it is not always true especially on the traditional tea, orange and flower plantations in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The pickers often work under inhumane conditions. They are the most vulnerable links in the production chain. Fair trade helps these workers and workers to enforce their interests. The farms and plantations that are members of the Fair Trade, agree to comply with minimum social and ecological standards. In these standards, fair trade based on international standards, such as those of the International Labour Organisation. These requirements ensure that all employees can join an independent trade union. The voice of the workers is crucial in the Fair Trade when it comes to finances. The plantation manager and the workers form a committee called the Joint Body. They always decide together how to use Fair Trade additional revenues. Opposite to other trade unions, Fair Trade unions always take into consideration the wants and needs of the workers, try to plan the company’s strategy according to the employees possibilities.
Fourthly, Fair Trade is based on the environmentally friendly principles. Organizations which produce Fair Trade products maximize the use of the raw materials from sustainably managed sources in the sector buying on the spot whenever possible. They use production technologies to reduce energy consumption and use renewable energy technologies that minimize greenhouse gas emissions if possible. They seek to minimize the impact of the waste stream on the environment. Fair agricultural producers should minimize their impact on the environment by using environmentally friendly technics whenever possible. All organizations use recycled or easily biodegradable materials for packing and shipment of goods by sea.
Following this, for many small-scale producers in developing countries especially in the remote areas it is very difficult to exit the international markets. Manufacturers have no information, no infrastructure facilities to influence on the international markets. Fair trade offers the partners not only a protected niche where they can sell their products at fair conditions, but also contribute to the world trade relationships. Fair Trade producers get access to the necessary information, contacts and resources. Representatives of fair trade cooperatives also have the opportunity to present themselves and their products at international fairs.
Another argument for the Fair Trade is health. The majority of Fair Trade manufacturers live in regions where basic health care is considered to be a luxury. The doctor is usually not available or a hospital visit is not affordable. Therefore all products are produced in order to improve the health of people without harmful pesticides. These harmful ingredients are largely omitted in the cultivation of fair trade coffee, fruits and flowers, which also contributes to the health of farmers and workers. And when a farm in a remote village in Latin America, Africa or Asia could afford municipal sanitation and toilets, it would be a huge step towards better health and quality of life. Modern technologies obviously help to fasten the process of food production but the question of the healthy food is always burning. It is an open secret that all products grown within the Fair Trade improve digestion the the overall organism condition.
Moreover, Fair Trade products are now available in most supermarkets so there is no need to order them in Internet. Fair Trade products can be bought in more than 27 000 supermarkets all over the world. Committed trading unions also organize regular exhibitions and testing weeks to raise the awareness of Fair Trade among people all over the world.
Obviously, there are always opposite views on each issue and thee Fir Trade is not exclusion. Economists argue that the Fair Trade can not counter global trade tendencies which include sophisticated farming technologies and the minimization of the farmers’ workforce. Modern machines substitute the agricultural processes and tend to eliminate manual farmers’ workload. Nevertheless I strongly believe that producing environmentally friendly products not only contributes to the farmers’ prosperity in the developing countries but also helps to solve the problem with environmental contaminations, which is a burning question not only to developing but also to developed countries. Overall, Fair Trade is the ideal plan of actions, though it may take hundreds of years to implement it into real economic conditions.
FAIR TRADE: Ethical goods extend beyond costly coffee. (2010, January 7). Marketing Week.
Hulm, P. (2006, April 1). Fair Trade: What Does "Fair Trade" Mean? You Won't Find One Single Answer. Here We Look at the Market Profile of Fair Trade-The Players, Controversies, Benefits and Drawbacks. International Trade Forum.
Miller, D. (2010). Fair trade. Detroit: Greenhaven Press.