Fair Trade Kerfuffle
I am on record as being a Fair Trade Skeptic. (I admit that Fair Trade is human- caused, but I am not sure that is melting the polar ice caps).
Interesting article from NYTimes, normally a big Fair Trade cheerleader ("If you want to get laid, support Free Trade! Yay, team!")
Critics accuse Fair Trade USA of watering down standards, perhaps motivated by the bigger fees to be earned from certifying a higher volume of products. Some sellers of fair trade products fear that small coffee farmers will lose market share to the big plantations and that companies will have an incentive to include only the minimum amount of fair trade ingredients in their products.
“It’s a betrayal,” said Rink Dickinson, president of Equal Exchange, a pioneer importer of fair trade coffee, chocolate, tea and bananas, based in Massachusetts. “They’ve lost their integrity.”
Paul Rice, chief executive of Fair Trade USA, said the fair trade movement was dominated by hard-liners who resisted needed changes. “We’re all debating what do we want fair trade to be as it grows up,” Mr. Rice said. “Do we want it to be small and pure or do we want it to be fair trade for all?”
He dismissed criticism that his group was seeking to increase revenue for its own sake. “The more we grow volume, the more we can increase the impact” of fair trade, he said. In 2010, companies that sell fair trade products paid the group $6.7 million in licensing fees, which are meant to pay the cost of auditing a company’s production to make sure its fair trade claims are accurate.
As part of his efforts to expand the fair trade designation, Mr. Rice is cutting ties between his group and an umbrella organization, Fairtrade International, which coordinates fair trade marketing activities in close to two dozen countries. He said his group paid outsize fees to Fairtrade International — about $1.5 million last year — and received little in return. The international group has also rejected the changes put forth by Mr. Rice.
“The best thing we can do is make sure we’re staying true to the principles that got us to where we are,” said Rob S. Cameron, the chief executive of Fairtrade International. “I’m not going to water those principles down.”
The brouhaha has surprised many companies that sell fair trade products and will soon be forced to take sides. For consumers who pay attention to where their food comes from and how it is produced, the result could be confusion as they try to sort through a proliferation of competing fair trade labels with differing claims.
Heh, heh heh. He said "brew-ha-ah." About Fair Trade coffee. That's funny.