Key Issues in Fair Trade

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Any social movement and international commerce system has its controversies, challenges, and key issues. This section, in part, attempts to foster thoughtful discussion and debate on complex, multi-faceted issues within Fair Trade.

Fair Trade Minimum Price for Coffee Again Benefiting Farmers


One of the key benefits of Fair Trade is to guarantee producers a minimum floor price when global commodity prices drop. In some years, when commodity prices are high, this benefit is more psychological rather than material. This year for coffee farmers, the benefit is again material and very important.

The small scale farmers that make up the majority of global coffee production remember all too well the calamity of 2001 when prices plummeted to 45 cents a pound, throwing hundreds of thousands of farmers and landless workers into poverty or destitution.

More recently, in May 2011, the price of Arabica coffee on the New York futures market hit a 34-year high of almost US$3.09 per pound. But, as if to justify its volatile reputation, the coffee price has plummeted in 2013 to less than US$1.10 per pound – nearly 65 percent off the 2011 high (see the latest market price here).

The price collapse this year is particularly unwelcome for farmers in Central America, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru where leaf rust, a fungal disease that destroys coffee trees also known as La Roya, has already wiped out up to 30-40 percent of the crop, according to the International Coffee Organization (ICO).

Fairtrade certified cooperatives can count on at least the Fairtrade Minimum Price of US$1.40 per pound for washed Arabica coffee sold on Fairtrade terms (30 cents more if organic), plus an extra 20 cents per pound Fairtrade Premium to invest as they see fit, 5 cents of which is dedicated to productivity and quality investments.

More at Fairtrade International post

New Comic Book Illustrates a History of Fair Trade


In recent weeks a comic book, written by Phyllis Robinson and Nicholas Reid, with illustration and graphic design by Vendela Larsson, called “The History of Authentic Fair Trade”, was made available by Equal Exchange. The 48 pg. comic book is for high school level & above.

This educational work of art presents an engaging story of the history of Fair Trade from the perspective of interests focused on fully committed Fair Trade, small farmers and democratic producer coops. While some Fair Trade interests will disagree with some of the opinions in, and tone of, the story, the comic covers many key events and insightful global contexts under which Fair Trade has evolved since its beginnings.

More at FTRN book review

“What Are the Pros and Cons of Engaging Large Corporations in Fair Trade” Free Webinar Coming Oct 3


Fair Trade Resource Network (FTRN) announces that Webinar #127 is coming October 3 to discuss “What Are the Pros and Cons of Engaging Large Corporations in Fair Trade? The webinar is for FREE for the public to learn about:

How do large corporations affect benefits to producers, public awareness of Fair Trade, and availability of Fair Trade products? How do such corporations affect governance in Fair Trade, decision making power, and brand reputation?

Attendees can ask questions to the panelists:

Mark Hudson, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of the Global Political Economy Program at the University of Manitoba, Canada

Ian Hudson, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Manitoba, Canada

See more details below.

Register FREE for Webinar #127

Find free recordings of past FTRN webinars on key issues within Fair Trade.


FLO Releases Annual Report for 2012-13


Fairtrade International (FLO), the largest certifier of Fair Trade products worldwide, just released its 2012-13 Annual Report. The 20-page report is one of the best sources of global statistics on producer organizations, smallholder and worker representation, retail sales by country and product type, and more.

This edition is the first such FLO annual report that excludes activity from Fair Trade USA, which left the FLO system at the end of 2011.

A few highlights include:

  • Over 1.3 million farmers and workers in 70 countries are part of 1,149 Fairtrade producer organizations
  • In addition to sales income, these producer groups benefitted from around 80 million euros in Fairtrade Premium money in 2012.
  • Consumer sales increased significantly in key markets, including: Germany (33 percent), the Netherlands (26 percent), Sweden (28 percent), Switzerland (15 percent), and the UK (16 percent).
  • Excluding the USA, average sales in all other Fairtrade markets increased by over 20 percent compared to 2011.
  • Consumers showed their support for Fairtrade by spending 4.8 billion euros on Fairtrade products in 2012.
  • Fairtrade products became available in Kenya and will be available in India later this year, providing consumers in those markets the chance to buy Fairtrade products from Fairtrade producers in the same country.
  • Nespresso, Ben and Jerry’s, and Maltesers made major new commitments with Fairtrade.
  • The Fairtrade Access Fund has given US$5.65 million in loans to small producer organizations in Latin America to address their most pressing financial needs.
  • More than half of all bananas sold in Switzerland’s retail chains are from Fairtrade producers, and over 40 percent of sugar bags in the UK bear the FAIRTRADE Mark. Globally, sales of Fairtrade flowers grew by over 50 percent.
  • Over 30,000 Fairtrade products are now sold in more than 125 countries worldwide.

More at FLO post

FTUSA Finalizes Multi-ingredient Label Policy


Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) has finalized its labeling policy for products with multiple ingredients after over six months of consultation. The rules continue to allow brands to use “Fair Trade Certified” for products with 100% Fair Trade ingredients and “Fair Trade Ingredient(s)” for products with at least 20% Fair Trade ingredients. According to, there was a significant change for the “Ingredients” label. Before, all ingredients that were commercially available as Fair Trade were required to be Fair Trade. Now, only ingredients that are commercially available and predominantly sourced from the Global South are required to be Fair Trade. That change could adversely impact sugar farmers, according to advocacy group Fair World Project (FWP). One policy change welcomed by FWP is the new requirement to include the % of Fair Trade ingredients by dry weight on the packaging.

See FTUSA multiple ingredient label policy

See article

Recording of Webinar on Messaging & Marketing of Fair Trade Now Free


The recording of Fair Trade Resource Network (FTRN) Webinar #126 is now available free. Produced on June 18, 2013, the webinar “What Are the Effects of Different Messaging & Framing in Fair Trade?” was 50 minutes long.  The webinar discussed implications and asked attendees questions to 2 panelists:

1.  Mark Hudson, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of the Global Political Economy Program at the University of Manitoba, Canada
2.  Ian Hudson, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Manitoba, Canada

Public webinars produced by FTRN are one of the few spaces for multipartisan discussion about key issues in Fair Trade.

FREE Webinar #126 recording

GMCR Continues as Largest Purchaser of Fair Trade Products in US in 2012


Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (GMCR) has been recognized by Fair Trade USA as the world’s largest purchaser of Fair Trade Certified™  coffee in 2012, for the third consecutive year. Since the debut of GMCR’s first Fair Trade Certified™ coffee in 2000, the company’s purchases have delivered more than $22 million in community development funds to coffee farmers.

The company purchased more than 54 million pounds of Fair Trade Certified™ coffee in calendar year 2012. This includes coffee certified in the U.S. by Fair Trade USA as well as Fairtrade Certified coffee in Canada, which is certified by Fairtrade Canada.

More at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters

Papers Now Available from Global Fair Trade Academic Conference


Following the conclusion of the Fair Trade International Symposium (FTIS) in Liverpool, England, in April 2012, the Social Enterprise Journal published a special edition of several papers presented during the symposium.  Planning is underway for the next FTIS, which is currently anticipated to be held in 2015.

See FTIS papers here

FTF Logo to Start Appearing on Product Hangtags and Packaging


Members of the Fair Trade Federation can now begin using FTF’s logo on product tags and packaging. Up to now, FTF members could only use the logo on marketing collateral like websites, brochures, and signs, not on products.

FTF is the trade association of fully committed Fair Trade retailers and wholesalers in N. America. FTF consists of around 250 members, who adhere to its 9 Fair Trade principles.

More at FTF logo

IMO “Fair for Life” Revised Standards Open to Comments Before Final Revision


IMO has announced the next phase for revising its Fair for Life standards. Comments to date have been incorporated into a  2nd consultation draft. Stakeholders are invited to give feedback before August 26 for the final version of the standard, to be published in October 2013.

More at Fair for Life post