In response to an article on Guardian Global Development, which reproduced an extract from the book “Fair Trade Scandal”, Barbara Crowther, Fairtrade Foundation’s Director of Policy & Public Affairs, said:
“The Fairtrade system welcomes constructive debate, as we seek to continually strengthen our system and approach. It is a reality the in many of the commodities where Fairtrade operates – such as coffee and bananas – Latin America has traditionally dominated market access. Overcoming Africa’s historic exclusion from world trade markets is a long and slow process, but one we are actively engaged with. Fairtrade International’s response to Mr Syllah’s book can be found here: http://www.fairtrade.net/1114.html
“By focusing on figures from 2009, the article does not fully capture the changes in Fairtrade in Africa over the last five years. For example in 2012, the number of Fairtrade certified producer organisations in Africa grew by 23%, and six in ten of all farmers and workers in Fairtrade are now in Africa. Increasing their market access on Fairtrade terms is the challenge now. Fairtrade is working to boost the productivity and sales for African co-operatives in the commodities where they have a competitive advantage, such as with cocoa growers in Cote d’Ivoire or coffee growers in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Since 2005, Fairtrade Africa has worked to strengthen the position of farmers and workers, and to contribute to greater sustainable development in Africa, and we are working with businesses to encourage them to do more to boost the volumes that are sourced from African producers. Producers and traders across Africa are also now engaged in establishing Africa-Africa Fairtrade supply chains, starting in South Africa and the Kenya & East African markets.
“Meanwhile it is overly simplistic to suggest geography alone determines wealth or poverty as we all know there are huge disparities of wealth in many Latin American countries, as there are in many African ones too. In Colombia, for example, a Fairtrade workers’ foundation made up of 15 certified farms has used its Fairtrade premiums to build a school because children in their rural villages were having to be taught under trees and in an old disused pigsty. That they have done so through better terms of trade rather than reliance on traditional aid, is something they, and we, can celebrate.”