Beyond Fairtrade…


by Martin Meteyard, former Chairman of Cafedirect, current Chairman of the Lorna Young Foundation

Fair trade has made a huge difference to the lives of producers in developing countries. Latest statistics from the Fairtrade Foundation show estimated UK retail sales rising to £1.17bn in 2010, a figure that would have seemed unimaginable only a few years ago.

And yet . . . only a tiny proportion of that £1.17bn actually went back to producers.

Fair trade mainly affects the price of raw materials (coffee, tea, cocoa, cotton etc.). That’s better – a lot better – than nothing.  But it’s still true that, with a handful of exceptions, most of the money we pay for Fairtrade products ends up in the pockets of retailers, processors and packers in Europe or North America.

So the next challenge is to find ways of turning that around.  One way – pioneered by Divine Chocolate – is to make producers part owners of the company, thus sharing in the profits made from the value chain here.

Another is to promote investment in processing and packing facilities in the country or region of origin, such as with Good African Coffee.  Alongside this it makes sense to support producers in developing their own local and regional markets.

Fair trade is an important first step. It is not the final goal in decisively changing how value is created and distributed in the global economy.

What do you think?

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