Leather Journals and Bookbinding – Yesterday and Today

By: Chriss Tyrrell

If you didn't know by now, Fair trade is a marketing certification program that allows its participants who adhere to their policies to display the Fairtrade label or stamp on their products. In short, it's designed to give third world farmers and workers basically a better deal on the products that they produce.

Whats in it For Fair trade Retailers?

How is this done? It's all really quite simple. People who sell Fairtrade certified products on the retail end, can and do charge more for the products that they sell. Who pays more for Fairtrade products? The fact is that a lot of people do and the numbers just keep growing. It is a proven, economically viable marketing program. In short, it pays to sell Fair trade certified products.

Whats in it For Third World Fair trade Farmers and Workers?

So how do the producers and workers half a world away get their cut of the profits? They don't get a cut of the profits per se. However; just as the retailers must play be certain Fairtrade rules, so too must the importers, brokers manufacturers and landowners who purchase from and employ third world farmers and workers. Its all monitored and Fairtrade regulations are strictly enforced.

Recent Critical News Reports Regarding Fairtrade

However; news reports have come to light in recent months that have questioned whether Fair trade producers and workers at the very bottom end of the economic chain are really getting a fair shake. In fact the numbers that are being thrown around regarding wages earned by some third world Fair trade farm workers for instance, can at first glance seem truthfully, rather small both before and after joining Fairtrade.

What Is the Real Story?

For instance, one article in particular outlined how coffee plantation workers in Peru saw their daily wages increase from $2.40 to only $3.00 under the Fairtrade program. That’s only an increase of sixty cents per day, which anyone can argue is not a heck of a lot of money. So what’s the real story behind these reports and are these numbers correct?

How are Non Fairtrade Field Workers Doing Today?

The real story is that during this global economic downturn many non Fairtrade third world agricultural workers have seen their wages cut on average by as much as 50%.
Indeed, non Fairtrade field workers in central Mexico who just 18 months ago were earning on average $18-$20 per day, including a noon meal and potable drinking water are now earning $8- $10 per day, no noon meal and they have to also now provide their own drinking water. Sadly for both you and them, drug production and trafficking, in spite of its inherent dangers, is once again viewed by many as the only way out of poverty.

The Facts On Making Adjustments In Third World Micro-Economies

Secondly, there are cultural/economic realities that do present themselves in many, if not all of the far flung regions where Fairtrade is working to implement changes. In short, entering and making adjustments in third world marketing and production micro-economies and systems is a delicate task in even the most optimal circumstances.

Some Stand to Lose From Fairtrade Policies

It is important to bear in mind that there are pre-existing natural economic systems already in place when ever Fairtrade appears on the scene with their new plan and not everyone stands to gain. For instance, predatory middle men who have for years been able to profit off the misfortune of local disempowered workers can and most often do see their livelihoods being threatened by Fairtrade representatives. Also Fairtrade can be seen as a threat by non Fairtrade local farmers who must now compete for workers, while they have less to offer them.

Put Down Your Cappuccino and Go Take a “Real” Look!

So while many of the actual numbers gathered by the well intentioned people behind these articles that are critical of Fairtrade are correct, you can rest assured that they were gathered from behind a desk in an air conditioned office somewhere in the UK, Canada or the US. The “real facts” that tell the “real story” of Fairtrade and the positive changes that it is making on people’s lives in far flung regions of third world countries must be gathered with actual “boots on the ground”.

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Chris Tyrrell writes for Just Trade, who work closely with third world manufacturers in order to achieve fair trade status. Visit the website for more details.

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