Wednesday, 1 February 2012

What is fair trade?

What is fair trade? After years as a niche market, the concept of ‘fair trade’ seems to have finally broken through into the mainstream, with most of the major supermarkets now stocking these lines. The fair trade market has grown massively in recent years with new product ranges being added all the time. There are now thousands of fair trade products available in the UK - everything from bags, teas and coffee to wine, clothing and flowers, biscuits, fruit juices, chocolates, snack bars, muesli and even footballs.

It appears that growing numbers of consumers are prepared not only to buy fair trade products but also to pay a little bit more for the privilege. Some have even suggested that it would be more logical to label unfair products.

True, fair trade products are still in a minority and will probably remain so whilst the current economic climate persists. Then there is cynicism, with a perception amongst some that it is a con, that the money doesn’t get to the producers, that manufacturers are using it as a smokescreen to charge more. A few die hard cynics have even compared fair trade to charity Christmas cards – that you pay a little extra cash and clear your conscience in the process.

The majority view, however, is that the growth of fair trade serves the common good and is a route by which poverty, ignorance and unfairness can be reduced across the globe. It can also be a platform upon which a more sustainable global economy can be built, empowering women through education and reducing birth rates, protecting endangered species and helping to preserve the Earth’s delicate eco-system.

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