You buy fairtrade because…

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  • You buy fairtrade because…
  • House
    Member

    Or you don't buy fairtrade because…

    Meeting up with the head of a fairtrade org shortly and pondering why the consumer makes a decision to buy / not to buy fairtrade. Thoughts?

    If you do buy, which brands and why?

    coffeeking
    Member

    I buy it if it isnt vastly more pricey than the good quality alternatives, because I like to think I'm at least giving a decent wage to people who make what I consume. Whether that's a reality or not, I'm not sure.

    tron
    Member

    I try not to, as fairtrade coffee is almost always ethiopian. Ethiopian coffee is cheap because it isn't very good. I also doubt that it's efficient in the economics sense. Or sane.

    I wouldn't be at all surprised if it's not unlike the various Farm Standards that exist in the UK, whereby a farm can be excluded from the process and forced to sell their goods through far narrower channels.

    Junkyard
    Member

    I buy it because I believe in a fairer world. I would rather poor farmers made some money than rich multinationals made even more money. Fairtrade tea bags for example are no dearer then PG tips or other brands.

    EDIT

    I also doubt that it's efficient in the economics sense[/Quote]

    What do you mean here?

    soma_rich
    Member

    I find Fair trade coffee and chocolate are usually better than a similarly priced or branded alternative. CO-OP Chocolate is yummy 🙂

    Premier Icon ahwiles
    Subscriber

    …because i hope it makes a difference to the farmers, and the environment they live/farm in.

    (in my naivety, i think i remember something about fairtrade farmers having to jump through a few hoops regarding biodiversity and habitat protection)

    i mainly shop in a co-op, where there are lots of fairtrade things, i regualarly buy coffee/bananas/muesli/chocolate/other stuff too.

    given a choice, i buy it if i can.

    i do feel that there's a suggestion of 'scam' about it, the products are usually more expensive, and i honestly don't have a clue if the extra money actually does any good, or whether it just goes towards the Bob Geldof sponsored arms trade…

    (tron: i like ethiopian coffee, it's distinctive. i actively look for it now)

    Dickyboy
    Member

    +1 for what coffeeking said

    I buy it if it isnt vastly more pricey than the good quality alternatives, because I like to think I'm at least giving a decent wage to people who make what I consume.

    Yep, pretty much the same here. Try to make the effort to do it for tea and coffee producing nations, because before there was fair trade stuff, thats where I probably helped screw farmers on the other side of the world the most in my purchasing. I'm sure if I sat down and analysed every pound I spent, I wouldn't sleep.

    Whether that's a reality or not, I'm not sure.

    And again, +1. We just have to hope that the companies who do it, are being fair and honest. I trust the fair trade logo though – it's about as much as you can do

    House
    Member

    Thanks guys

    Some other brands – have you tried:

    Liberation nuts (Harry Hill's nuts)
    Divine chocolate
    Cafe Direct coffee?

    I used to buy all fairtrade/organic food but now that my wages have (effectively) gone down I shop around for cheaper deals on food and everything else.

    I tried Fairtrade coffee, but didn't like it. I do buy Fairtrade bananas and keep an eye out for other produce which I like and can afford.

    JonR
    Member

    I wrote a letter in to the Metro about 5 years ago in reply to an article where the women who wrote it (I picture a middle aged, middle class woman in vaguely ethnic clothing) was stating she could not believe that anyone would buy fair trade coffee.

    I wrote in pointing out that fairtrade coffee tasted like 5hit as the only fairtrade there was at that point was one type in the coop and some god awful stuff available from United Reformed churches.

    I got a scathing letter back by another woman repremanding me that there were a wide range of fair trade coffees about if I was willing to spend the money and many of them were delicious. My letter was marked Jon, Manchester. Her letter was marked Araminta, SW1. I didn't realise they read the Metro in Knightsbidge.

    I try not to, as fairtrade coffee is almost always ethiopian. Ethiopian coffee is cheap because it isn't very good. I also doubt that it's efficient in the economics sense. Or sane.

    That's not true. For instance (and I'm sure there are many others), Union Coffee Roasters (who make lovely cafetiere coffee) say this on their website:

    All our coffees are bought fairly, ethically and sourced from farms and co-operatives which meet internationally agreed labour standards. These are all set above the minimum standards required for Fairtrade certification.

    And this:

    Unfortunately, not all our coffees are eligible for Fairtrade certification. And while we’re confident the Fairtrade logo is not your prime motivation, we recognise that sometimes only a certified coffee will do. So, our Union caters for this need too.

    and everything I've read about them suggests they are telling the truth, so I buy their coffee from the supermarket. Ethiopian coffee is mostly yummy, but not all fairtrade coffee is Ethiopian.

    uplink
    Member

    Can't say I ever notice it one way or another
    I tend to buy on value & experience rather than any ethical concerns

    if it was what I wanted, tasted & kept well & was good value, it could well end up in the trolley

    House
    Member

    Lol – JonR

    There are now so many brands that are Fairtrade,a nd so many deals on that I am sure you can find a coffe that doesn't taste 5hit 😉

    The question then is, what would need to change to make you WANT to buy fairtrade?

    tron
    Member

    What do you mean here?

    I mean that I suspect an Ethiopian coffee farmer might more efficiently apply his time to some other form of employment. Creating a price floor for coffee encourages him to grow coffee, which for whatever reason, his farm isn't well suited for. On the other hand, he could perhaps grow some other crop, and live on the proceeds of that, without needing the Fairtrade middleman / subsidy. Or he could do something entirely different.

    Essentially, if you take things to extremes, you can use a system like Fairtrade to impede the industrialisation and economic development of a country.

    Premier Icon Nick
    Subscriber

    Ethiopian coffee is cheap because it isn't very good

    I've read some crap on this website in the years I've been on here, but this is a right Horaism.

    soobalias
    Member

    depends what mood im in

    price/quality is where its at essentially, if i can con myself that im
    a. not actively killing environment/people/planet
    b. sticking it to 'the man'
    so much the better.

    never heard of lib nuts, or devine chocolate (not big into choccy tho')

    My bananas say they are fair trade from the Dominican Republic.

    Mind you they were from Waitrose so according to Jon from Manchester I'm a middle class do gooder or something. Milk and eggs come from my local shop which gets them from a farm down the road – no fair trade branding, but the same principle (fair access to a market for the supplier rather than been beaten down on price constantly by a single large buyer with unfair and arguably anticompetitive practices).

    Premier Icon Nick
    Subscriber

    To answer the original question: the fruit in a our veg box is fairtrade, we also buy other products if they are any good; the fair trade mark would encourage me to try a brand I'd not had before but if it wasn't any good or I didn't like it I wouldn't buy it just because it was fair trade.

    bagpuss
    Member

    I tend to buy Cafe Direct stuff for work, I like various blends from them and no matter how bad people think here might think fair trade coffee is I promise you it's 100 times better than the crap served up from the office canteen. Oddly that's labeled as fair trade and is undrinkable. Not found a fair trade coffee that I like as much as Illy for at home though.

    As for other stuff then if I find it's as good as non-fairtrade I'll buy it again.

    tron
    Member

    Perhaps just Ethiopian Fair Trade coffee isn't any good.

    Certainly if someone agreed to buy a certain amount of my produce at a fixed price, then I'd cream off the best to sell on the open market, and give the Fair Trade chap my floor sweepings / low grade stuff. In that situation, that is the guaranteed method of maximising your returns.

    I buy it to soothe my middleclass conscience – and I doubt there is any other reason.

    I think this is a good thing tho – I do a fair amount of shopping in Co op which aims for all its own brand stuff to be fair trade. Hopefully the farmers get a few more pennies

    As for coffee You can get very good fairtrade coffees now that are not Ethiopian. I have some from Ecuador.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Ethiopian coffee is cheap because it isn't very good

    That's rubbish. I've had some lovely coffee from Ethiopia. As an aside, did you know that coffee originally comes from Ethiopia?

    Tron – do we know that the fair trade bloke isn't applying the same quality standards as the rest of the market? Surely you really WANT to sell to a fair trade buyer to get a good deal, so you would sell them your best, no?

    jonb
    Member

    I don't deliberately buy it. On some products it is mandatory in Sainsbury's, all products are fair trade (Bananas). On others, (chocolate) it is often present on the better stuff anyway.

    My understanding (from a commercial experience) is that it is purely a financial concept. The goods you by may not have been produced on a fairtrade farm etc. but the people with the branding have to give the fair trade farm a certain amount of money for the products sold.

    I have to agree with the guys saying the taste was not very good, I tried coffee and chocolate and never liked either so I never bought it again. And before anyone flames me house asked the question and I am giving him an honest answer.

    House
    Member

    Thanks guys – really useful

    A thought – has initial experience of the "Fairtrade" brand become part of the problem? As far as I know Fairtrade is just a guarantee that a fair proportion of the retail price gets to the grower – As such I guess it is not a badge of quality and user experience can quickly destroy trust in the brand??

    crikey
    Member

    My kids eat Fairtrade chocolate, and their favourite saying, being middle class brats, is ' I prefer it when you can't taste the slavery'.

    This has become corrupted over time to include;

    'I prefer it when you can't taste the gravery'
    when eating anything with gravy on.

    'He prefers it when you can't taste the davery'
    when our cat called Dave is eating.

    I'll get all the coats…

    have to agree with the guys saying the taste was not very good, I tried coffee and chocolate and never liked either so I never bought it again.

    Isn't Cadbury's fairtrade now?

    [/quote]A thought – has initial experience of the "Fairtrade" brand become part of the problem?

    Yes

    Okay Peter, I will rephrase I have not knowingly bought something that was fairtrade, But if a big name producer was to sell it I would probably try it

    tron
    Member

    Put it this way – most of the fair trade coffee I have had has been pretty poor. So I don't buy it. I'm simply speculating as to why that may be, if Ethiopian coffee isn't known by the coffee cognoscenti as the urine of satan.

    To further speculate, I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't a central co-operative packhouse / processing facility, much like small farmers had here, which meant that there was little comeback for farmers sending poor quality product in. Apply a bit of game theory and you can see that everyone will come to the same conclusion. Of course, if the game is to be repeated, you are then gambling on two factors – 1) the fair trade buyers being mugs, or 2) the farmers simply looking for a short term pay off.

    I would guess there's a combination of these factors at work – studies have shown that farmers often don't buy fertiliser for next year after a bumper crop, even though they know that doing so would further improve their returns next year. Give them the opportunity to buy fertiliser via finance when they need it, and they do. Similarly, the fair trade buyer knows that there are hordes of Tarquins and Jemimas feeling horribly guilty about those poor sods toiling in the fields, who will buy anything with a fair trade label.

    Junkyard
    Member

    Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the market price), Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives.
    The Fairtrade minimum price defines the lowest possible price that a buyer of Fairtrade products must pay the producer. The minimum price is set based on a consultative process with Fairtrade producers and traders and guarantees that producers receive a price which covers the cost of sustainable production. When the market price is higher than the Fairtrade minimum price, the market price is payable.
    Money paid on top of the Fairtrade minimum price that is invested in social, environmental and economic developmental projects, decided upon democratically by a committee of producers within the organisation or of workers on a plantation.

    http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/

    TRON

    you can use a system like Fairtrade to impede the industrialisation and economic development of a country.

    CAP does not seem to have hindered European industrialisation or economic development has it? I think sustainability and cohension and social justice are of a prime concern rather than the economic development per se. Depends on your view of subsidies really

    EDIT: Tron you are doing rather a lot of specualting can you back any of it up?I suspect there is some point to your view that yield may be more important that quality but is that really any different from non fair trade brands?

    Premier Icon nickc
    Subscriber

    I'll go out of my way to buy local produce. Meat, eggs, vegetables and so on. Fairtrade marked goods…Dunno. If supermarkets wanted to; then everything they sold would be "fairly-traded" by definition a fair price for goods, but do you know what a fair price for chocolate or coffee is? Do you care? what are unfairly traded goods, and where does the money for them go? Does that cover other European firms Lavazza, and so on? British made sugar as opposed to cane grown abroad?

    Complex issues, not really satisfied in my mind by a little sticker…

    scu98rkr
    Member

    "I mean that I suspect an Ethiopian coffee farmer might more efficiently apply his time to some other form of employment. Creating a price floor for coffee encourages him to grow coffee, which for whatever reason, his farm isn't well suited for. On the other hand, he could perhaps grow some other crop, and live on the proceeds of that, without needing the Fairtrade middleman / subsidy. Or he could do something entirely different."

    I completely understand your points. However Im not too sure this is a great example because didnt coffee originate around Ethiopia ?

    I'd have thought as the plant evolved to live in this area it was a good place to grow it. Although obviously what I say is a generalisation.

    tron
    Member

    Europe was fairly well industrialised before the CAP came in – we were making atom bombs, jet fighters and so on. Anyhow, CAP has hardly helped the proverbial African farmer, has it? It's probably one of the worst examples of a subsidy there is.

    I said I was speculating. Of course I can't back it up. My personal experience is that Fairtrade coffee tastes rank, and I've suggested a couple of mechanisms by which that situation could arise. Again, Ethiopia is taken as an example as a lot of Fairtrade coffee seems to come from there.

    Premier Icon geoffj
    Subscriber

    Some interesting stuff here:

    http://www.tradeforum.org/news/fullstory.php/aid/1031

    Pros and cons

    Fair-traders point out these development advantages:

    * Producers get a decent living, gain necessary skills and knowledge, obtain access to credit, find technical assistance and market information, learn about trade and acquire experience in exporting.
    * Better prices for farmers do not increase consumer costs, since the fair trade organizations cut out intermediaries by handling all the operations between production and retailing themselves.
    * Consumers get an educational tool promoting thoughtful consumerism.

    Critics sometimes treat fair trade as if it were offering a comprehensive solution to development problems. This can mislead strategists who are considering whether fair-traders will make good partners for their development efforts. However, this much is admitted:

    * Market share is much too small to have a major impact on general living standards in developing countries. Even if it expands significantly, only 20% of consumers at a maximum seem ready to pay more for fair trade products. This limits possible expansion.
    * Producing more low-priced commodities for over-supplied markets postpones what is really needed for development: diversifying exports and adding value, rather than depending on commodities and crafts. Or finding new social solutions for upland communities whose economic viability remains in doubt.
    * Rich markets can do more for poor countries by allowing bigger quantities of normally priced products in their markets.
    * Labelling organizations may cut out middle traders, but they may not return the full savings back to the farmers. Fair trade is an expensive niche market to maintain, because it needs constant promotion and requires educated consumers. High marketing costs are one reason why all those fair trade premiums don’t make it back to the producers.
    * Retailers may take advantage of consumers’ social conscience. After looking at prices in his local coffee bar where fair trade cups of coffee are sold at a premium, Tim Harford, a World Bank economist, concluded in The Undercover Economist: “Charging an extra ten pence gave a misleading impression of how much it really cost to get hold of that fair trade coffee.” Doubling a producer’s family income should add less than one penny to the price of a cup in a UK coffee shop, he observes. The coffee shop later dropped the price differential.
    * There are many different standards and criteria, and little discussion outside the organizations themselves. So consumers cannot decide whether the trade really is fair. Not all fair-traders are members of FLO, e.g., Rugmark and the Clean Clothes Campaign. The standards themselves can cover working conditions and environmental measures (or not) as well as stable pricing.

    i don't buy it.

    at present i can't afford to, in general.

    in the future, with an income (i'm a student), i would definitely consider it.
    my dissertation is based upon the subject of sustainable agriculture (although with a UK bias), and therefore the fairtrade topic comes up. in theory i agree with it, one of the biggest difficulties for farmers, esp in the developing world, is getting a fair price for their goods. the ethos behind fairtrade is, therefore imo, a good one.

    i guess i contradict myself in some ways though, as i tend not to buy fairtrade bananas – ime they are not as good quality as others. i'm not a coffee drinker.

    what i have noticed (although not on here) is that fairtrade frequently gets associated with organic. which it shouldn't do. the research i've done on this shows positivity for fairtrade, and a lot of negativity (within the agri/food supply industry) towards organic ("organics? well they've a great marketing team…!")

    i would be interested, though, on hearing what the fairtrade organisations views on organics are though…

    alpin
    Member

    remember reading an article about new 'fair trade' cooperatives. in areas where the kids traditionally work the fields with their parents, the families were finding it difficult to exist as the children were no longer allowed to work and were consequently suffering from malnutrition.

    i think it might have been a german article…. a while back, though.

    alpin, i've read similar things about the use of child labour. iirc in one case a big NGO (oxfam? mebbe not) stopped a campaign on child labour as it was having a substantial negative impact on the quality of lives of the families involved.
    if children are major bread winners (rightly or wrongly), then to take that away from the family is a no-win situation – the family cannot afford to send ANY of the children to school, and the additional impacts on the buying of food etc was pretty disastrous.

    i'm not suggesting that children SHOULD work btw…

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Fairtrade coffee is not a brand. There's no point in saying 'fairtrade coffee tastes ****' any more than there is saying 'coffee delivered by red lorry tastes ****'.

    Now it may be that many fairtrade coffees aren't good; I don't like cafe direct for instance, which was one of the first brands. However Starbucks coffee now tastes exactly the same as it did before it was fair trade as far as I can tell.

    Fair trade itself will not affect quality. If a brand goes fairtrade and lets its quality slip, then that is the brand's issue not the fact that it's fair trade.

    Obviously.

    non of the fairtrade bananas have been particularly great 🙁

    Premier Icon Daffy
    Subscriber

    coffeeking – Member
    I buy it if it isnt vastly more pricey than the good quality alternatives, because I like to think I'm at least giving a decent wage to people who make what I consume. Whether that's a reality or not, I'm not sure.

    +1

    whytetrash
    Member

    Did some research into this a while ago, this is from a coffe buying mate…Fair Trade set a minimum price for each product standard they set up based on costs of production in each producing country.
    If the market price falls below then producers / farmers / workers are protected. If market price is above, then they receive the market price. At the moment the tea market would need to fall off a cliff for the minimum price to kick in – don't think we have used it in 5 years…

    On top of the minimum price there is a fixed social premium paid directly to the workers / farmers to be used in social projects. On tea this is 50 US cents per Kg – Sainsburys are currently paying c.$2.5M a year on tea premium alone – god knows what its costing them on bananas!

    The use of the premium varies depending on where it is used. In Africa its mostly used to provide clean water, electricity, clinics, hospitals, food stores, educational bursaries, etc. In India and more 'prosperous' countries where infrastructure is generally better its used to fund workers pensions, higher education, crop diversification and sustainable agricultural practices.

    Workers don't get 'paid' a lot more in most cases – but they are guaranteed a much better and safer standard of living than if not FT.

    FT is still the gold standard – Rainforest Alliance (PG tips, McDonalds, etc) and the others, who do not guarantee a premium or a minimum price, are nowhere near as strong on ethical stuff but stronger on environmental.

    Clarified it for me because, like most people I only had a vague idea of what it meant!

    thanks whytetrash, interesting.

    Philby
    Member

    I buy Cafe Direct because I like it, and sometimes chocolate and fruit. Many mainstream products now have the Fairtrade Mark including Cadbury's chocolate, Sainsbury's own label tea bags and Starbucks coffee.

    I was involved in the launch of the Fairtrade Mark in South West England when I was working for Oxfam back in the early 90s and it is good to see its growth both in food stuffs and also in clothing – M&S do a range. I have also been to a number of events where farmers from West Africa or South America have spoken about the benefits that Fairtrade has brought to them – for example building schools with the profits.

    So all in all I think Fairtrade has been successful, and increasingly many of the products are as good if not better that non-Fairtrade ones.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Sounds like it is well thought out then – insofar as it seems not to affect the free market based on quality all that much..?

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