The truth about Fairtrade
How your wallet is changing lives.
Chances are as you settle back to read this, you’re sipping on a piping hot cup of coffee, savouring the aroma and enjoying the sweet taste of a caffeine-fuelled kick-start to your day. But many of the ingredients that go into our favourite daily indulgences — the coffee in your cup, the cocoa beans and sugar in chocolate, the spices in our food and even the cotton in the clothes we wear — are sourced from farmers who are not paid enough to even cover the costs of production, let alone feed their families and provide adequate healthcare and education for their children.
This unjust system is driven by a handful of multinational companies which wield power over much of the international trade market. They push down the prices paid to producers and farm workers in the developing world, reinforcing the cycle of poverty.
For decades the fair trade movement has been working to establish an alternative and much fairer approach to the way materials are traded. Locally, Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand (FANZ) and the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) have been working to empower farmers and workers by paying them a minimum, stable, fair price to cover production costs. The additional payment of a community or social premium enhances the social, environmental and economic standards of the local communities of producer cooperatives.
Elsewhere events such as Fair Trade Fortnight have had a part to play in bringing Fairtrade to the public and corporates. The annual event celebrates all things Fairtrade with a series of events, including Oxfam’s Biggest Coffee Break. Since it launched in 2007, Coffee Break has involved more than 85,000 participants throughout New Zealand, with money raised benefiting farmers throughout the Pacific and Asia.
But Fairtrade is certainly not without its controversy. Allegations of child labour in some Fairtrade supply chains have kept the organisation on its toes.
A 2011 survey by Globescan found that 57 per cent of Kiwi consumers are familiar with the Fairtrade label. But with Kiwi wallets feeling the economic pinch, are shoppers prepared to put their money where their ethics are and buy Fairtrade goods, and how well is New Zealand poised to take advantage of gaps in the local marketplace?