James Rus­sell

Element - - Contents - El­e­ment ed­i­tor

My granny’s method of dis­cov­er­ing the ethics, ori­gin and age of a prod­uct was to fix the shop keeper with a stare of such in­ten­sity that he wouldn’t dare lie.

Back in the old days the path from pro­ducer to plate was sim­ple, par­tic­u­larly in far away New Zealand; sea­sonal and trans­par­ent.

Then came the days of a kind of ra­bid, sta­tus con­sumerism, where con­sum­ing the roe from a rare species of stur­geon found only in north­ern Lake Baikal screamed VIP. Now, per­haps, the tide has turned. Con­sider the cof­fee farm­ers of East Ti­mor, who be­fore Fair­trade (the sub­ject of our lead story) earned 15c per kilo of cof­fee beans. The only thing be­tween the raw ma­te­rial and you was a roast­ing ma­chine and some pack­ag­ing. Com­pare that to the price we pay.

The con­cept of get­ting a fair price is just the way it is in New Zealand. Not so in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

The name ‘Fair­trade’ im­plies that per­haps other trade isn’t ‘fair’ which, of course, may not be the case. But the beauty of this ac­cred­i­ta­tion mark is that the ‘fair­ness’ is cer­ti­fied by a third party, which is about as good as you’re go­ing to get.

In the seven years Fair­trade goods have been avail­able here in New Zealand, sales have risen from $2 mil­lion to $36 mil­lion.

Per­haps we are see­ing the dawn­ing of the age of the con­scious con­sumer?

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