Fairtrade labelled too limiting
Fri, 04 May 2012 8:42a.m.
By Kim Choe
Fairtrade Fortnight begins tomorrow - a campaign aiming to raise awareness about how buying fairtrade-certified products benefits growers in developing countries.
More than $45 million of Fairtrade products were sold in New Zealand last year, but one business is on a mission to show that you don't need an official label to be ethical.
Supreme Coffee churns out five tonnes of coffee a week, making it one of New Zealand's largest specialty roasters. The company has sold a Fairtrade blend of coffee since 2005, but stopped paying for certification in 2009 and will cease selling the blend altogether next month.
“Like anything, it has its place - it's just become limiting for us, that's why we've stepped away from it,” says managing director Al Keating.
The Fairtrade certification guarantees growers will receive a minimum price regardless of what the market is paying - but Supreme believes that means there's less incentive to grow quality coffee.
The Fairtrade Association disagrees.
“Fairtrade isn't a quality certification - what we certify is that farmers are getting paid a fair price. If farmers improve the quality of their product, they'll get a higher price for it and then they'll always get the Fairtrade premium on top of it if they sell it through the FT market,” says Fairtrade ANZ’s executive director Steve Knapp.
But growers must belong to a co-operative with other farmers in order to be certified - which rules out some of the family estates Supreme buys its premium coffees from.
The company says although it's not using the Fairtrade certification it remains committed to ethical trading - it pays above both the Fairtrade and market prices for its coffee, and sends its New Zealand staff to visit growers in Africa and the Americas. Its managing director says the Fairtrade labelling system has been polarising.
“Fairtrade certification has painted a really black and white picture - if it's not Fairtrade, it's unfair - and we're trying to say it's not like that at all,” says Mr Keating.
“Basically without the Fairtrade label we can't guarantee that product is Fairtrade. So as a consumer you don't know if a product is Fairtrade unless it has the Fairtrade label. That's what provides you a guarantee as a consumer that Fairtrade standards have been met along the entire supply chain,” says Mr Knapp.
While Supreme says it has plenty of options to source its products other companies have faced challenges.
“We do source our beans from Ghana and there's only been one Fairtrade co-op in Ghana. They are developing another one, so the source of the cocoa beans was quite difficult - but I think that's being resolved now so,” says Whittakers marketing manager Philip Poole.
Whittakers says it will look into expanding its Fairtrade range as soon as it can shore up a regular supply of cocoa beans.
Fairtrade-certified products make up less than 1 percent of everything sold in New Zealand, but any misgivings about the labelling system aren't being reflected in sales, which increased 24 percent in the past year.
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25/10/2012 10:19:09 p.m.
Still think that it is a good obvious way to get more people "aware" of behind the scenes. It is so easy to be blinded and not know the reality of growers, all we know is a nice cup of coffee.
Get more people aware and participate, I think it is a way to start, yet, eventually people might get to the bottom line.
4/05/2012 2:48:28 p.m.
Kath Dewar wrote:
FairTrade certification gives consumers the confidence they need to trust the growers get a fair price. Otherwise they just have to take Supreme's word for it. Without third party certification, buyer beware!
4/05/2012 11:18:32 a.m.
FairTrade just another bully boy corporation that is really only interested in its own empire and profits.
Small family farmers that are strugling to feed their families are crushed by this giant world wide corporation.
Just another BS organisation in a BS world and every westener falls for it hook line and sinker.
The only thing that changes is the larger farms have to pay for their licence to get certification to be allowed to sell to the local markets for overseas trade. The child slavery and child workers still continues it is such an hypocrasy. A good idea on paper but that is where it should stay on some beuracrats desk just to stand his coffee on!
4/05/2012 11:09:52 a.m.
Barry Batista wrote:
So another coffee company drops out because they are more concerned with their bottom line, than the real concept of Fairtrade. The quality story is a ruse. If they truely cared about a fair go for the worlds poorest farmers and producers then the small investment in Fairtrade would not be an issue, and would simply add to demonstrating their company's commitment to social justice. Obviously that is not the case, and like everyone else, it always finds its way back to profits. That's fine, just don't criticise a system because you feel guilty about leaving it.
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