Fair Trade

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Grace
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Nov 22 2006 16:37
Fair Trade

Is it actually as good as people make out or is it a load of bollocks? People are making a big deal about it at college right now and I don't actually know much about it other than fair trade chocolate is really nice and fair trade bananas are quite rubbish. Does it really give the producers a better deal than trade with non-fairtrade companies?

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Steven.
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Nov 22 2006 16:39

AFAIK it only guarantees the bosses in the 3rd world a fair deal, not the workers wages. I think it's pretty much balls - especially as they charge so much for it. As if the pittance wages they pay people are what makes up the price of products like that.

Also, this should be in thought, not libcommunity, this is serious! moving now...

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JDMF
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Nov 22 2006 16:43

in some cases you have clear difference being made, like many fair trade producers are workers co-operatives.

I think to dismiss fair trade as wanky because of the added price is the same than saying to workers not to seek for improvements in pay if it affects the price of the end product (essentially saying that it can only be asked if it eats into the profits of bosses).

We (as in students unions and workplace unions together with do-gooders) managed to get a fair trade policy at my workplace which i think is a great initiative and have always supported it.

hey about fair trade bananas, most bananas are fair trade these days aren't they? And there is absolutely no difference in quality, perhaps you should shop elsewhere smile

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Khawaga
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Nov 22 2006 16:49

Well, it really depends on what type of fair trade organization it is (i.e. the certification). Some places the lil' extra goes , as John says, to bosses, others directly to the peasants, sometimes to the communities. Fair trade usually also implies better labour and environmental standards than through the production of"normal" commodities. It does improve a few peasants lives, but on a very small scale.

Basically, fair trade is politics by consumption which in fact is very apolitical. It is a middle class way of paying off some of their guilt.

Fairly traded commodities are still commodities.

edited for grammar and other stupid mistakes

Grace
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Nov 22 2006 16:51
JDMF wrote:
hey about fair trade bananas, most bananas are fair trade these days aren't they? And there is absolutely no difference in quality, perhaps you should shop elsewhere :)

Perhaps. I normally get Sainsbury's organic ones but I got fair trade ones a couple of times when there were no organic ones left and they tasted pretty crap and went brown and squishy within a couple of days.

They're trying to introduce more fair trade products at college, they gave us chocolate the other day and they're offering tea, coffee and chocolate at breakfast and lunch.

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Rob Ray
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Nov 22 2006 16:58

Will write a bit more on this another time, but from what I've seen it's sometimes alright, but quite often it's just a front for the middlemen skimming more money rather than less, and more than capable of ripping off both third AND first world people.

Mike Harman
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Nov 22 2006 17:21
JDMF wrote:
hey about fair trade bananas, most bananas are fair trade these days aren't they? And there is absolutely no difference in quality, perhaps you should shop elsewhere :)

No. In supermarkets there's quite a lot of free trade OR organic yeah, I still see more from Del Monte and Dole in general though, so I'd guess in terms of production overall it's a small amount. Just because something is "Fair Trade" doesn't necessarily mean they aren't using dibromochloropropane (DBCP) or similar chemicals in producing it, it just means the companies get more money per tonne.

I heard an interview with one coffee supplier saying that for their non-fair trade coffee the suppliers got 1p a packet, for fair trade they get 6p, I don't buy coffee but I bet the extra mark-up is way over 5p! So the extra cost in shops has very little to do with what they pay the suppliers (let alone the workers employed by the suppliers, or their working conditions in general).

Quote:
I think to dismiss fair trade as wanky because of the added price is the same than saying to workers not to seek for improvements in pay if it affects the price of the end product (essentially saying that it can only be asked if it eats into the profits of bosses).

Hmm. People are constantly told to spend more money in order to be "ethical consumers", often to buy stuff that either isn't more ethical, or is mis-advertised (free range eggs recently? just for you JDMF) or is massively over-priced compared to the extra production cost. This is because something being fair trade or organic has turned out to be a massive marketing boost which (guilty) consumers will pay way over the odds for. Supermarkets see it as a massive growth industry for them. Pointing that out isn't the same as telling people not to go on strike mate. Also I don't think anyone on here would tell people not to buy fair trade or organic food, just that it's not worth campaigning over.

Apart from that, the only way that workers in "fair trade" industries will get better wages and working conditions is if they organise collectively, not via fair trade caimpaigns. Not an easy taskIf anything a fair trade label (or poicy) could be a cover for other exploitation. How much do the workers in your campus shops/cafes get paid? Is it "fair"? Did the prices go up when they adopted the policy? For an extreme example I buy fair trade bananas from my local supermarket usually, about a year ago one of their staff was killed by a delivery truck. Just as an idea it's completely removed from reality. What's "unfair trade", why does it deal only with relations between companies (and consumers) but never with (class) relations within companies.

BB
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Nov 22 2006 17:31
Mike Harman wrote:
Just because something is "Fair Trade" doesn't necessarily mean they aren't using dibromochloropropane (DBCP) or similar chemicals in producing it, it just means the companies get more money per tonne.

You've given me the fear catch, could you tell me more about DBCP, or a decent link?

Pepe
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Nov 22 2006 17:40

Fair trade just exploits liberals a bit more, and 3rd world workers a little bit less. I dunno, are bigger cages and longer manacles a bad thing?

I wouldn't personally buy something fair trade JUST because it was fair trade, but a significant amount of people will pour their money down the drain, including people that don't have much money and that concerns me a little bit.

At my old college it was disgusting - liberal girls gave up their break and lunchtimes to sell Traicraft goods, and they didn't get paid for it. Slavery through guilt?

Mike Harman
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Nov 22 2006 17:47

http://libcom.org/news/article.php/del-monte-exploitation-070206

This link is about a decision not to classify areas around a plantation as public health hazards.
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/hac/pha/delmonte/dmc_p3.html

http://www.labournet.net/world/0311/nicarag1.html

From Del Monte's annual report:

Quote:
Starting in December 1993, two of Fresh Del Monte’s
U.S. subsidiaries were named among the defendants
in a number of actions in courts in Texas, Louisiana,
Mississippi, Hawaii, Costa Rica and the Philippines
involving allegations by numerous foreign plaintiffs that
they were injured as a result of exposure to a nematocide
containing the chemical dibromochloropropane (DBCP)
during the period 1965 to 1990.
In December 1998, these subsidiaries entered into a
settlement in the amount of $4.6 million with counsel
representing approximately 25,000 individuals. Of the six
principal defendants in these DBCP cases, Dow Chemical
Company, Shell Oil Company, Occidental Chemical
Corporation and Chiquita Brands, Inc. have also settled
these claims. Under the terms of our settlement, approximately
22,000 of these claimants dismissed their claims
with prejudice and without payment. The 2,643 claimants
who allege employment on a company-related farm in
Costa Rica and the Philippines and who demonstrated
some injury were offered a share of the settlement funds
upon execution of a release. Over 98% of these claimants
accepted the terms of our settlement, the majority of
which has been recovered from our insurance carriers.
The remaining claimants did not accept the settlement
proceeds and approximately $268,000 was returned to
the Company’s subsidiaries.
On February 16, 1999, two of Fresh Del Monte’s U.S.
subsidiaries were purportedly served in the Philippines
in an action entitled Davao Banana Plantation Workers’
Association of Tiburcia, Inc. v. Shell Oil Co., et al. The
action is brought by a Banana Workers’ Association
purportedly on behalf of its 34,852 members for injuries
they allege to have incurred as a result of DBCP exposure.
At this time, it is not known how many, if any, of the
Association’s members are claiming against the Fresh
Del Monte’s subsidiaries and whether these are the same
individuals who have already settled their claims against
the Company’s subsidiaries.

http://media.corporate-ir.net/media_files/NYS/FDP/reports/ar2000.pdf

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry again:
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts36.html

BB
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Nov 22 2006 17:49

Cheers catch, i'll check them tomorrow.

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Nov 22 2006 17:55

K basically, there's a few thoughts I'd raise on this:

Fair Trade works around a 'golden handcuffs' system, where suppliers are paid over a minimum level which is (rather arbitrarily, and in a western context laughably) 'fair', and are tied into this either for lengthy contracts, or on a take it or leave it basis - if they leave it, they don't get it back again later.

This showed its limitations directly after hurricane Katrina, which, rather obscurely, managed to wipe out an extremely large chunk of the US warehoused reserves of coffee. This pushed the world price of a sack of coffee up. A lot. Way over that year's set 'fair trade' price for coffee in fact.

The response of the ethical market was curious. Rather than pay the extra, and then a bit more, as would seem consistent with their socially positive policies, they declared that all growers contracted to them had two choices:

1) Stay with them on the lower level of pay.
2) Take the higher level offered on the free market, and forfeit their contracts and right to further fair trade prices once the market corrected the next year.

Sadly, I've lost the research I had on this, but that's still a basic policy so it is likely to repeat itself.

so on that level, it's 'fair' I think to say that the images of a paternalistic saviour of poverty-stricken third world farmers is not entirely accurate. The trade-off for the growers involved, other than reliance on what amounts to charity from the west (taking on some of the middle-mens' costs voluntarily from the growers and then some) is an effective straight-jacket on their ability to make gains when they have the chance.

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Refused
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Nov 22 2006 18:19
Jack wrote:
cantdo came from a Fair Trade background

cantdocartwheels was grown and picked in Africa, then shipped to Warrington where he was squeezed into a carton?

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pingtiao
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Nov 22 2006 18:28

I brought that price cap up with someone Saii, and they came back with the claim that the agreement was to pay a set amount above whatever the price fluctuated to... Is that wrong, and do you have any references to back it up if so?

Mike Harman
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Nov 22 2006 18:33

No it's the opposite. Saii makes it sounds basically like taking out a fixed rate mortgage.

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pingtiao
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Nov 22 2006 18:36

Yeah, Saii has said that there is a fixed agreement at the beginning, so if the market price fluctuates above it the producers actually sell below market price, whereas my liberal friend said the agreement was to pay a set percentage above whatever the market price was.

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Nov 22 2006 19:28

Specifically in the Katrina case, I did find evidence yeah (from a farmer's website) but lost the link and the info and haven't been able to retrieve it, may have been deleted by now of course.

Looking a little bit into it, the contracts seem to change depending on which company is doing it and in what sector. So in some cases, eg. Green and Blacks, will guarantee that the price will be above market rates over a 3-5 year contract.

For coffee meanwhile, the only stipulation by fair trade labelling groups is that a certain price limit must be reached - $1.26 per pound was stipulated in 2005. This is substantially better than the coffee prices of the 90s, which were as low as $0.60 but less than April of last year for example, which saw prices top $1.37. This is not to say all coffee importers didn't pay the premium mind, but wherever that damn report went that I read was suggesting that a large number didn't.

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Rob Ray
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Nov 22 2006 19:38

Also found this on my wanderings...

Oh look, fair trade farmers fuck over their workers...

petey
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Nov 22 2006 19:39

ovah heah a large fair trade outfit is Equal Exchange. their policies are described here: http://www.equalexchange.com/our-co-op

Caiman del Barrio
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Nov 22 2006 20:14
Jack wrote:
cantdo came from a Fair Trade background, and his critique of them has it as worse than 'unfair' trade.

Well you could definitely argue that effectively Fair Trade acts as a sort of cathartic yet perfectly harmless pressure valve for nauseating liberals ie it assuages the guilt they get everytime they get as far as the International section in the Guardian. The lasting consequence of it is a completely unanalytical view of global poverty and also a sense of fait accompli. That's definitely been the case in my experience. The vast majority of my fellow students at least attempt to buy it when it's within their budget. In fact, my local Sainsburys is awash with bizarrely coiffured freaks all very ostentatiously gathering around the Fair Trade/organic/free range shite. How ironic, that it should become a status symbol of sorts.

Of course, the fraught illogic of ethical capitalism doesn't really need expounding on...or does it?

I gotta say, Fair Trade's actually a rather neat contradictory mechanism within capitalism for neutralising criticism.

Also, on a related note, is it now socially acceptable to talk about yourself in the third person or are we really that embarassed about our previous political naivete? Most people would at least have the shrewdness to steer clear of a thread like this if they really were that concerned about being outed as an ex-Fair Trader, you woulda thought...

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 22 2006 20:24
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
In fact, my local Sainsburys is awash with bizarrely coiffured freaks all very ostentatiously gathering around the Fair Trade/organic/free range shite. How ironic, that it should become a status symbol of sorts.

it's almost as if the most honest of human emotions is turned into a commodity or something

Caiman del Barrio
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Nov 22 2006 21:03

Almost, but not quite.

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 22 2006 21:16

sorry, i meant 'the most look-at-me-i'm-oh-so-ethical emotions' wink

Caiman del Barrio
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Nov 22 2006 21:29

Good lad, I see you listen to my bitchathons.

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 22 2006 21:38

cool

i think neutral

i've gone and started a political/conspiracy theory debate in spanish on the Peru thread d'oh wall

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Nov 22 2006 22:44

i think this thread is a bit weird, i mean some of the posters talk about the failings of the fair trade (both political shortcomings and abuse examples) like it is somekind of news or a suprise. Sounds like rants about how water is wet to me.

The fundamentals here are what we should be discussing: is the idea right that a product could cost more within capitalist framework if it means improvements in workers conditions (or environmental issues etc)? Of course there is abuse, of course there is ripping off and of course there are dangers that without larger anti-capitalist criticism the act is futile and could be replacing political action and positions. This, i think, doesnt negate the fundamental idea though.

To me reading stories about workers co-ops selling fair trade cocoa beans, or flowers and workers telling how much better the conditions are, the pay is and their ability to control their working environment is worth something. I dont go out of my way to seek fair trade products, but dont mind the extra couple pennies for them either.

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Rob Ray
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Nov 22 2006 22:50
Quote:
I dont go out of my way to seek fair trade products, but dont mind the extra couple pennies for them either.

I'd go with something close to that, but more along the lines of I'm happy for wealthy liberals to give their money to it in the same way as it's better that some of their cash go to the exploited than that they spend it all on an SUV or something*. Everyone with decent politics could spend any excess like that on something more useful like funding libertarian projects though wink.

*much like my attitude to charity. We all know most of it goes to some prick in middle management, but he then at least passes bits of it on once he's creamed off the top.

Caiman del Barrio
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Nov 23 2006 00:29
JDMF wrote:
The fundamentals here are what we should be discussing: is the idea right that a product could cost more within capitalist framework if it means improvements in workers conditions (or environmental issues etc)? Of course there is abuse, of course there is ripping off and of course there are dangers that without larger anti-capitalist criticism the act is futile and could be replacing political action and positions. This, i think, doesnt negate the fundamental idea though.

Well it kinda does negate the concept behind Fair Trade though. And also whatever good may or may not be done for the grand international proletariat, it's pretty much undermined by the recognition of the feeble form that international solidarity has taken up in the early 21st century.

Moreover, what makes you think this isn't a temporary fad that'll die out in the next 5-10 years, leaving all those nice little co-ops completely fucked when the aggressive market returns?

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Nov 23 2006 12:05
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
Well it kinda does negate the concept behind Fair Trade though.

only the uncritical celebration of it. And i think that is the role of people like us, to poiint out the problems and how inadequate it is.

What i am against is that people would dismiss the whole idea out of some principle. Since we are stuck with capitalism for a while i think it would show lack of solidarity with those whose lives have clearly been improved by this.

Quote:
Moreover, what makes you think this isn't a temporary fad that'll die out in the next 5-10 years, leaving all those nice little co-ops completely fucked when the aggressive market returns?

aye, but thats true about anything isn't it? "Oh wicked, we have communism, but what makes it sure it isn't just some fad"

petey
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Nov 23 2006 14:04
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
Moreover, what makes you think this isn't a temporary fad that'll die out in the next 5-10 years, leaving all those nice little co-ops completely fucked when the aggressive market returns?

2 reasons not to think so: it's been going for 5-10 years already, and it's pretty well and widely estalished, at least here in the states.

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Steven.
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Nov 23 2006 14:52
JDMF wrote:
The fundamentals here are what we should be discussing: is the idea right that a product could cost more within capitalist framework if it means improvements in workers conditions (or environmental issues etc)?

General Motors here says it will pay its workers a bit more, if you pay loads more for the car. Do you buy the car?

Like fuck do you. I mean at least in this scenario the firm is promising to pay the workers more, unlike fair trade, where prices are only guaranteed to bosses in the 3rd world. But at its root its - at best - just passing the costs of workers' wages onto other workers. And skimming two lots of profit off the top - one for the seller putting a giant "fair trade" mark-up on, another for the 3rd world supplier making bigger profits from his western "ethical" buyer company.

It's balls. Even if unlike Saii you don't think money would be better spent supporting anarchist projects - or even workers' struggles - if you just want to give charity you'd be best off saving the extra money and posting it to some banana-growers directly.