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Fair trade. Make a stand!!

from moon beam - Tuesday, February 08, 2005
accessed 1293 times

A good article I found.

Also cick for free and help, it costs you nothing.

The three richest people in the world control more wealth than all 600 million in the world's poorest countries.
2.8 billion people - nearly half the world’s population - live on less than $2 per day.
Unfair Trade Rules - Unfair trade rules deny poor countries $700 billion every year.
Imbalance - At the last full meeting of the WTO the EU had 500 negotiators and Haiti had none.”

“Of $3.6 trillion of all goods exchanged globally, fair trade accounts for only .01%.
Fair trade businesses return 1/3 to 1/4 of profits back to producers in developing countries.
According to the National Labour Committee, a Haitian sewing clothing for the U.S. market may earn less than 1% of the retail price.”

The 48 least developed counties of the world make up 10% of the worlds population. Their share of world exports have dropped to 0.4% over the last 20 years. However, the EU and US (which together roughly accounts for 10% of the worlds population) own nearly 50% of the worlds exports.

However, the good news is that sales of Fair Trade goods in the UK have grown by 40 per cent during the past year. With CafeDirect being ranked the 6th coffee brand in the UK, and TeaDirect the 8th.

There has been a fair amount of discussion about fair trade and ending global poverty within the mainstream media. Therefore, I decided to look at some of the issues surrounding fair trade for myself.


Coffee is the second most valuable traded commodity globally … first is oil. However, the countries producing coffee are amongst the poorest in the world.

This is due mainly to the amount of money earned by the coffee producers and the amount of profit western companies are making. The price of coffee has fallen by almost 50 per cent in the past three years to a 30-year low.

The coffee producers depend on their income to ensure that their families have adequate health care, food and education for their children. Sadly, many producers simply can not afford these basic human rights.

The big four coffee roasters, Kraft (Maxwell House, Carte Noire, Kenco, Kaffee HAG, Yuban, Gevalia), Procter & Gamble (Folgers, Millstone), Sara Lee (Douwe Egberts ) and Nestlé each have coffee brands worth US$1bn or more in annual sales. Along with German giant Tchibo, they buy almost half the world's coffee beans each year. Profit margins are high - Nestlé has made an estimated 26 per cent profit margin on instant coffee. Sara Lee's coffee profits are estimated to be nearly 17 per cent - a very high figure compared with other food and drink brands.

Today's standardised coffee blends may be a mix of coffees from as many as 20 different coffee types. Sophisticated risk management and hedging allows the companies, at the click of a computer mouse, to buy from the lowest-cost producer to mix these blends.

In the case of coffee, fairly traded coffee is usually organic and shade grown, which results in a higher quality coffee.


The European dairy industry is swimming in a sea of subsidies. Each cow, be it Friesian or Jersey, receives $2 a day, just to chew grass.

However, the EU gets a subsidy for exporting milk to other countries. Milk from places such as Northern Ireland and France, export their powdered milk to West Africa, where it can be found in their shops. In 2001, 21,000 tonnes of powered milk was imported to Western Africa, most of it coming from France.

Mali (the largest country in West Africa) has 6.5 million cattle alone. But powdered milk continues to be imported in! The outcome of this is the African farmers falling more and more into poverty. The EU is not going to decide on the future of milk subsidies until 2007. This may well be too late for some struggling African dairy farmers.


Texas is the cotton capital of the United States. Some 25,000 cotton farmers produce a quarter of all world exports by using the latest technology on farms averaging more than 12,000 acres. These cotton farmers are earning a great wage, but this is keeping those in other countries poor.

The EU and US had promised to eradicate the subsides placed on agricultural exports in the future, but as these negotiations have moved further forward, they are beginning to go against what they had originally promised. The EU and US can basically make up the rules to suit them. So, even though it sounds good that subsidies will be phased out, the WTO are still allowing “WTO friendly” ones, which will support the US and EU economy. Over half of the $1bn a day now spent subsidising intensive agriculture at home and export dumping would be left untouched

Again, it seems to be a case of keeping the poor poor. US cotton farmers get roughly $160,000 per head in government support (a share of almost $4 billion in government support) which enables them to stay clear of the deepest depression in world prices since the 1930s. These subsidies have indeed helped this depression of world prices, resulting in the devastation of livelihoods of West Africa’s 11 million cotton farmers.


There is a EU arrangement which means that sugar from non-UK countries are not allowed in the European markets. Therefore the British sugar industry is booming with a profit of £175 million last year.

The money made on British sugar goes straight to the shareholders, such as the Westons, the second richest family in Canada, with a net worth of $7 billion.

This in turn means that we pay more for our sugar! Not because we have to pay tax on the subsidies, but also that there is no competition in this market which would force prices to come down. In addition, this isn’t helping African farmers pull themselves out of poverty.

With fair trade “workers earn a greater return on their labour, and profits are distributed more equitably and often reinvested in community projects such as health clinics, child care, education, and literacy training. Workers learn important leadership and organizing skills, enabling self-reliant grassroots-driven development.” (source:

So what can be done?

Buying fair trade goods is a good step forward. I was surprised to hear that Starbucks have a fair trade coffee! There are more and more fair trade products coming on to the market today, mainly due to consumer power. So it up to us to show our support and tell those with the influence and power what we want.

However, buying fair trade products alone are not going to solve the problem, especially when there are restrictions placed on trading and subsides still going to the west. Therefore, it is up to those in government, with the political power to make changes, but I believe that these changes will only come across if we, the consumer, kick up enough fuss about it.

There are many organisations supporting and promoting the use of fair trade. It doesn’t take much time to find them online and then learn the different ways to take action, from buying fair trade, organising fair trade awareness in the workplace to emailing politicians for change.

It’s up to us to make the change.

Useful links and sources:

Reader's comments on this article

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from exister
Friday, February 11, 2005 - 08:53


It is easy for Starbucks to buy "fair trade" coffee when they charge $5 for a cup of it. I would be willing to bet that their profit margins on that coffee are better than those of the big corporations.
(reply to this comment)

from Joe H
Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 09:25

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

Another thing some of you ought to do is stop breeding! A child born in the industrialized world consumes and pollutes more in its lifetime than do 30-50 children in developing countries; yet the environmental damage from global consumption falls most heavily on the poor(UN State of the World's Cities Report 2001) . All the "fair-trade coffee" you buy at Starbucks won't compare to the resources saved by having one less person around to consume them. Take the pill, use condoms, or fucking get your tubes tied* for God's sake!

*That applies to either sex. There may be a pill available for men in a few years.
(reply to this comment)

From exister
Friday, February 11, 2005, 08:56


Yeah, and especially don't breed in a vain attempt to fix a relationship.

Once you realize that all reality is shit you will see the utter pointlessness of forcing the entry of another hapless human being into this world of shit. The world is like a big festering, quarantined island. Those of us on it have no choice other than to stick it out, but there certainly is no point in bringing more people into the mess. (reply to this comment

From xolox
Friday, February 11, 2005, 09:46


I am reminded of something.

"...We are all an organism feeding on a rock in space.

Life has come down to: Killing the cancer, steming the growth of black.

Pharmacological barriers will not save you, but this pill holds back the tides, and this pill is a chemical knife."(reply to this comment

From frmrjoyish
Thursday, February 10, 2005, 05:42

Absolutely! My sentiments, exactly!(reply to this comment
Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 02:01

Most of your examples relate to agricultural commodities the buying of which, even on "fair trade" hyperbole will do little to no practical difference in alleviating poverty. The raising of coffee prices on the world market will aid the average african citizen about as much as the hike in oil prices help the average Nigerian.

That the nations which began industrialisation, capitalism, and defined modern trade standards exploit their own innovation to their benefit is just a macro-mirror of human nature which above all seeks to better ones own condition.

(reply to this comment)
from Baxter
Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 01:32

As true as all this is, the consequence of this diatribe will be for the contented middle-classes of the west who read articles such as this one to feel momentarilty convicted and righteously comvinced for all of about two seconds, till they go back to consuming and buying into the industries that keep them in affluence. Meanwhile the working classes will remain in political suspended animation- at least until they have to pick up their kids from the police station after Mayday, or the next time the SWP organises a pointless, purposeless rally against whatever. Convincing the Average western Joe that his comparative comfort is bought at the expense of the so-called surplus population is arbitrary because he will not get off his arse to challenge the status quo. No one would consequentially starve if subidies cease ,but not many will make impressive profits either: and, crucially, in all this the average Joe neither loses nor gains substantially in the result or the action. And so the western popular impetus for change remains forever untapped and static.
(reply to this comment)
From moon beam
Friday, February 11, 2005, 08:27

Baxter, you are right in describing a percentage of society, but that doesn't make the situation pointless. I believe every little helps including protests and shunning products and companies.

I guess it's a good job that all of us aren't average Joes ;) (reply to this comment
From frmrjoyish
Thursday, February 10, 2005, 05:59

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

A fatalistic attitude like that is a guarantee that nothing will change. Of course it's not easy and is a tremendous challenge but there are countless examples, like the Clean Air and Water Acts, or the endangered species acts, child labor laws, etc., of people pulling together and demanding change from their politicians.

Bitching about circumstances without any positive direction on how to change things is part of the reason why things change so slowly if at all. If everyone took the five minutes it takes to type a diatribe on the hopelessness of a situation and instead spent that five minutes doing something productive the world would be better for it.

Like it or not, all of us in western countries are part of a big machine that uses and abuses the resources of the world. Luckily we also live in democracies and we as people do have the power to change. If we use this power and educate ourselves on issues before we vote things will change. Sitting around and bemoaning the state of the world today will do nothing but assure that more sitting around and bemoaning will soon follow.(reply to this comment

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