Fair Trade CertifiedFair trade certification allows farmers to receive higher prices than they would in the conventional market. It means that the farmers were paid a fair price for their product and were not exploited by middlemen who pay them less than their crop is worth. They are paid at least 5 cents more per pound, and are able to earn earn 3 to 5 times more, than conventional farmers. Coffee (the world’s second most traded commodity, after oil), cacao, and other farmed products are often produced under sweatshop conditions. Industrial workers don‘t earn the legal minimum wage. Small farmers are paid less for their crop than it can cost to grow it, locking them into a cycle of poverty and debt and forcing them to keep their children out of school to work the farm. Small farmers usually can’t get credit, and can easily lose their farms. Under Fair Trade, importers pay an established fair price regardless of the volatile market. Credit is provided at low rates; and small farmers who use traditional, sustainable techniques don’t have to lose their farms to industrial cooperatives that employ pesticides and aggressive deforestation.
The program also prohibits forced child labor, ensures safe working conditions and encourages environmentally sustainable farming methods as well as other measures to improve farmers’ lives. Fair Trade is part of a larger movement that began in the 1940s, with churches selling crafts made by World War II refugees. Fair Trade certification began in the Netherlands in 1988 due to of plummeting prices in the world coffee market. Today, 20 countries have labeling programs using shared criteria under the umbrella of Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International in Germany. In the United States, there is certification for cocoa, coffee, rice, fresh tropical fruits, sugar, tea and vanilla. For more information about Fair Trade visit Transfairusa.org and GlobalExchange.org.