Thursday, January 04, 2007

Fair Trade coffee

My dear daughter Blanche has an eye for the appropriate! At Christmas she was very pleased with herself because she found some Fair Trade coffee from Tanzania to include in her Christmas gift to me.

She makes me smile at her thoughtfulness.
Fair Trade is an important scheme that promotes economic development in poor countries through trade.
Fair trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, which seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers. Fair trade organizations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.

Trade is a vital element in the mix needed to lift countries out of poverty. However Alex Nicholls, social entrepreneurship professor at Oxford University says that "within developing countries, market conditions are not such that producers can unambiguously be declared to be better off through trade." The existence of market failures lessens the capacity of trade to lift developing countries out of poverty.

Wikipedia notes that fair trade products generally account for 0.5-5% of all sales in their product categories in Europe and North America. In October 2006, over 1.5 million disadvantaged producers worldwide were directly benefiting from fair trade while an additional 5 million benefited from fair trade funded infrastructure and community development projects.

Here’s a personal aside – Australia has a culture of good coffee which was brought to us largely by Italian migrants post-WWII. So there is no excuse for the cultural imperialism of American fast-food outlets in the form of Starbucks. When you drink the watery filtered stuff that passes for coffee in US restaurants and cafes you can see why Starbucks swept the nation. But it would be a sad state of affairs if the same happened here. So, I tend not to use the few Starbucks cafes that have opened in Australia.

However, Starbucks rose mightily in my regard when I discovered that they use Fair Trade coffee. Of course my estimation slid again when I discovered that only 3.7% of their coffee is Fair Trade. Ah well – a little is better than none. Look here to learn about an activist campaign to encourage Starbucks to give greater support to Fair Trade coffee.

For more information about Fair Trade you can check out Wikipedia, or the Fair Trade Organisation of Australia and NZ.

When you are shopping, you can look for the Fair Trade logo on goods you buy. Your retail dollar is a vote, and every dollar counts.

The Fair Trade movement is just getting underway in Australia, so look out for more Fair Trade goods appearing in the major supermarkets in the next year or two.

I wonder if they grow coffee in the north of Tanzania, near Arusha? Do some of the parents of kids at St Judes work on coffee farms? Maybe I’ll find out when we visit later this year!

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