For most Fairtrade products including bananas, other fresh fruits, coffee, flowers, nuts, rice, spices and more the Fairtrade system requires these products to be physically traceable. This means they must be labelled and kept separate at every stage of their journey from the farmers groups to the shop shelves. However, when we attempted to introduce similar rules for products such as cocoa, sugar, tea and juice, we discovered that there is very little physical traceability in the way these sectors work.
For example, the chocolate industry is currently not always able to keep Fairtrade cocoa and non-Fairtrade cocoa separate at every stage of production from the cocoa field to the final bar. Cocoa beans are delivered in bulk by farmers and routinely mixed during shipping and in the manufacturing process.
Rather than not engaging with these sectors and losing Fairtrade sales opportunities for thousands of small farmers, Fairtrade has set up a system to ensure that manufacturers that want to use the FAIRTRADE Mark must buy the precise amount of produce they need from Fairtrade farmers that will be used in their final product. This system is often referred to as "mass balance".
So, if a chocolate bar uses 500 tonnes of cocoa, then the manufacturer must purchase 500 tonnes of cocoa on Fairtrade terms, including the payment of an additional $200 Fairtrade Premium per tonne. This means that even if the beans are later mixed with non-Fairtrade beans - as often happens - Fairtrade cocoa farmers still get 100% of the benefits, and the better deal that the FAIRTRADE Mark stands for.
The Fairtrade Foundation’s mission is to support farmers and workers in the developing world to increase their share in global trade. Fairtrade’s stringent inspection and audit system is in place to ensure the amount of Fairtrade product manufactured exactly matches the amount of Fairtrade product purchased.