When you pay that little bit extra for your bunch of bananas with the Fairtrade sticker, please be aware that only a fraction of that price ends up in the hands of the farmers/producers. Middlemen take the most of it. And when it comes to Fairtrade coffee, the World Bank worked out that for one British coffee chain, less than 1% of the additional price of their Fairtrade coffee reached coffee exporters in poor countries.
You may think when you buy Fairtrade that you are helping the poorest countries, well no, that’s just not the case. Membership of the Fairtrade club is costly so accessing Fairtrade status via certification in the first place means that the poorest countries just cannot afford to join.
It’s a little reminiscent of the Brexit debate when there was so much discussion about world trade agreements, and the question is, in reality do trade agreement hurt the poorest and protect the strongest. Imagine a British trade agreement with Ethiopia, what could we buy from them and who is out there looking to identify the products of the poorest countries for export to the West for example.
It’s worth reading the new book by William Macaskill “Doing Good Better”*. He’s a Philosophy Professor at Oxford University and he outlines research from around the U.S and Europe which is very convincing in exposing the gap between our good intentions and the actual impact of our actions and it doesn’t make comfortable reading.
Well done to the marketing strategists at Fairtrade who have done a brilliant job for their shareholders no doubt. As always, we need to read the small print, you may not be getting what you think you paid for. And finally, did you know that Fairtrade is a plc? No, I didn’t either but now I avoid at all costs anything with that Fairtrade sticker.
*book review to follow