EVEN FAIRER TRADE 22/2/22
It would be great if we were able to produce all our own exotic foods like chocolate and pineapples. But we can’t of course, so we depend on them coming from the four corners of the globe and though this is at the mercy of several supply chain middle men using planes, trains and boats to transport the goods, we hope that the original producer gets fair pay of more than the sometimes dollar a day for their toil in the field or factory. Alas most don’t, hence the fair trade scheme and I wonder why there are not more products doing Fair Trade and why the public don’t demand more companies go down the ethical moral route.
I think we are so far removed from where the imported stuff comes from these days and we are now also fully conditioned to just have every food available all year and at a low price, that the how and why of this situation does not find a place in our breakneck speed lives.
I happened upon an interview lately from a Fair Trade boss and I was surprised how far they are now developed from the more sceptical views the public held in their formative years trying to put a bit of conscience and reward into the third world harvests. They really are at it properly now and there is no reason why customers should not just be seeking out more Fair Trade products but demanding it across the board for all the far flung imported goods they pop in their shopping trolley.
The world of commerce works in a different way however, capitalism is a hard taskmaster and the less well off countries are under a permanent social and economic cosh even before the current deforestation and climate crisis issues. Post pandemic transport costs have risen and inflation is here again. So the starting link in the chain back in the tropics is bound to feel the consequences all the way to the farm gate from the first world stock exchanges needing to protect their margins and shareholders.
When a three portion 220 gram packet of perfect blemish free smiley green beans can cost a Euro in an Irish store then surely questions must be asked as to how they can be grown, picked, packed, flown and sitting pretty in front of me at such a giveaway price? It would be interesting to know the breakdown of the money and who gets what along the way for that single Euro. Just what does the grower of these beans get for their labour? They have done the lions share after all. The same goes for coffee, fruit and everything else carted around the world to to us by means of fuel guzzling transport for our convenience. Are we prepared to pay more when there is a guarantee that the cut of the deal for the primary producer back in the poorest countries is going to be just and equitable? I think the average shopper would, so how do we tweak the system then so that all of these specific goods get the treatment the producer deserves.
Shipping all of these products causes greater carbon emissions so the irony is that the resulting extreme weather events will adversely affect the third world even more severely. They need to sell their wares to us in the west so they can get the highest price. Now there is a circle to square. If we ate more seasonally and bought local and cut out buying these imports then they also literally starve. There are only so many times you can eat green beans every day.
It is a dilemma worth pondering but for a start if we are going to go to all this trouble to get goods on our shelves then the least we can do is make sure the current Fair Trade growers get enough from the deal to live their lives knowing we can well afford to pay the rate. So make sure you buy Fair Trade produce first and foremost when you see the logo.