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Fair Trade: Dollar extra goes a long way

Monday 20 Jun 2011 9:43 p.m.

By Elizabeth Puranam

Twenty years ago, Fair Trade was a concept many people thought was for a niche market.

Now, Fair Trade products make more than $7 billion a year, helping more than 1 million workers around the world.

So how does buying a fair trade banana help people in developing countries?

'All Good' bananas look like any other at the supermarket, but they cost $1 more a bunch than other brands.

They're Fair Trade-branded and last year Harriet Lamb guided sales of products like them to more than £1 billion in the UK.

"If you buy fair trade tea or coffee, bananas or chocolate with our cheery little blue and green fair trade mark on it, then you know it's come from an organised group of farmers in developing countries and that they've been paid a fair price," she says.

Ms Lamb's journey started 20 years ago, when she met the wife of a Costa Rican banana worker whose farms were regularly sprayed with toxic chemicals.

The woman gave birth to a severely deformed baby

"I knew when I met that woman that there had to be a better way for us to buy our bananas. We have to try and create a different way of doing trade."

The Fair Trade standard requires farmers to not use harmful chemicals in producing their goods. There's 1.2 million fair trade workers around the world. The organisation's aim is to ensure they're paid at least market value for their produce.

They also receive a premium, which raises money for community projects.

"So for example, one of the fair trade banana groups used the fair trade premium to clean up the environment, to reduce their use of chemicals, to employ 17 teachers."

Since introducing Fair Trade bananas in New Zealand last year, there have been more than 1 million bunches sold, and that's helped 900 children in 17 schools in Ecuador.

Ms Lamb says what's driven Fair Trade is the decency of ordinary people who want farmers and workers to be treated fairly.

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