Around the world consumers are becoming more interested in the origin of the food and goods which they buy and are particularly concerned that producers in developing countries are receiving a fair deal and a fair price in return for the products they sell. Terms such as 'ethical trade' and 'fair trade' are widely used. There is a growing demand for ethically traded goods in Europe, USA and Japan.
In order to provide consumers with confidence that goods been produced and sold fairly, certification and labelling initiatives have been developed. These have been brought under the network Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) which administers the internationally recognised Fairtrade Certification Mark. Consumers who buy goods with the Fairtrade Certification Mark are assured that producers in developing countries have been paid a fair price and are not being exploited.
Fairtrade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. This specialist marketing scheme ensure producers a fair price (Fairtrade Minimum Price) that is stable over time, so that people have a predictable income. In addition a Fairtrade Premium is also paid to producer groups for community and social infrastructure projects of their choice.
The points of reference for Fairtrade Certification are the Fairtrade Standards. To achieve Fairtrade status a product needs to be certified according to these Standards. This is done by an independent international certification company known as FLO-CERT GMBH. This organisation checks that producer groups and traders conform to the Fairtrade Standards and allows retailers to use the Fairtrade Certification Mark (logo) that is increasingly recognised by consumers. To meet the Standards farmers have to form democratically organised groups and meet certain environmental conditions that are designed to maintain sustainable land use.
Achieving Fairtrade Certification can offer farmers an advantage in the marketplace in some countries. For example in the UK many consumers will pay more for a product with a Fairtrade Mark than one without. This can be an important part of any marketing strategy. However, it is not always the case that the Fairtrade price is greater than a producer can achieve in local or regional markets.
From its start 10 years ago, Fairtrade honey is now an established product in European shops. However, there are significant costs and capacity demands associated with certification; farmers must organise on a larger scale than they may be used to. It is arguably rather easier to gain Fairtrade status for products, such as tea, sugar, coffee, bananas and chocolate, that already have historically established, large scale organisation and export routes than it is for honey which frequently has a fragmented and scattered production base and weak market linkages. Producers need to weigh up all the available options very carefully, ensuring they have calculated all the potential costs and considered the logistical problems that will arise.
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