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Lee Byers is Fairtrade International’s Senior Advisor, Coffee and Tea with the Global Product Mangement team

As global Senior Advisor for Fairtrade tea and coffee, I am often struck by the difference in these two sectors. Generally speaking, the tea sector is very well established with good long term demand and in recent years, has achieved good prices for bulk-made tea. Tea is also largely an all-year-round, weekly crop with a relatively stable supply base. Market prices are also somewhat predictable driven by physical supply and demand of made tea.

In contrast, coffee is a seasonal, annual/bi-annual crop, requiring high investment/working capital while market pricing is highly volatile, dictated by a global NYC commodity price, driven by physical availability but also increasingly commodity speculation, creating high uncertainty and price risk. One of the key reason’s Fairtrade offers small coffee farmers a minimum price (US$ 1.40 per lb) plus an additional Fairtrade Premium (20 cents per lb) versus a current NYC price of around $1.33.

On this basis, the tea sector looks in good shape, but beneath the surface there are a number of structural weaknesses which must be addressed if we are to have a sustainable tea future. After 30 years of enduring low profitability, many tea growers have struggled to make sufficient investments in infrastructure and labour welfare, so there is a compelling need for change.

The Oxfam tea wage report, published today is therefore a timely and helpful contribution to a wider industry debate as to how we can improve worker welfare and move toward a living wage. As the Fairtrade International representative on the steering committee for this report, I have been privileged to help shape the scope and design of the study as well as facilitate key meetings with industry experts. While the results are indeed challenging, they are perhaps a spur to action for everyone on the tea sector, recognising that enduring solutions cannot be delivered by Fairtrade alone.

This week, I attended the second in a series of workshops hosted by Forum for the Future as part of the Tea 2030 project. While we are some way yet from finding solutions to complex sustainability issues, I am encouraged to find myself alongside representatives of major tea brands, retailer’s NGO’s, industry bodies and tea boards from around the world.

Fairtrade is not alone, the journey has begun and together I think we can begin to make a real difference to tea workers, their families and communities through a vibrant and sustainable tea industry.

Take a look at the recent Malawi study conducted by NRI University of Greenwich, which examines Fairtrade tea Premium impacts for workers and farmers.

Read Fairtrade International’s response to the Oxfam-Ethical Tea Partnership report.

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Fairtrade America, the CLAC (Latin American producer network), the NAPP (Asian producer network), Fairtrade Canada and Fairtrade International spent the weekend celebrating coffee, connecting farmers and traders, and having an all around great time at the SCAA Event in Boston. Trade fairs like this one play an important role in bringing producers and traders, roasters and retailers to talk business and continue pushing coffee further.

Left to right: Fairtrade farmers check out their new Fairtrade t-shirts; Brazilian coffee farmers cupping coffee at the Specialty Coffees of Brazil booth; Jose Abad-Puelles of Fairtrade Canada reviews some material with Bijumon Kurian of India; and Fairtrade coffee farmers from Huatusco, Mexico, get a taste of their own coffee in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Some great photos from the SCAA Coffee Conference in Boston. Producers meeting traders meeting business making connections!

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This is the coffee cuppers song, the ebb and flow, the slurp and spit. Sensory notes and subtle overtones. Yesterday at the Specialty Coffee Association of America's annual conference, the Brazilian Specialty Coffee Association (BSCA), SEBRAE and Carmo Coffees teamed up with Fairtrade Regional Coordinator Catalina Jaramillo and Fairtrade farmers to hold a cupping session to show off winners of a Fairtrade quality contest that took place early in the year. This is just a small sample of the action.

…And now Fairtrade Saffron from Iran

After three years of patient preparation and collaboration between importers, traders and farmers: Saffron and Iran are on the Fairtrade map!

Saffron is derived from the dried stigmas of the purple saffron flower. Anything from 60,000 to 250,000 flowers (weighing around 100 kilos!) are needed to make just one kilogram of dried saffron. The flowers are individually harvested by hand and it takes at least forty hours’ labour to pick 150,000 flowers. No wonder it’s the most expensive spice in the world.

Around 85% of global saffron exports come from Iran. Production of the exotic spice is a real family affair. Every family member is involved in some way, whether it be harvesting, extracting fresh stigmas, hygienic drying, or processing and packaging. And that means each family is utterly dependent on the crop for their income. They have to produce good quality, and they have to find a buyer. This makes them very vulnerable to the whims of the market.

But thanks to a unique collaboration between importers, a processor, saffron producer families and Fairtrade, this is about to change.
In 2010, importers VARISTOR and Antonio Pina Diaz teamed up with the Global Saffron Company and Fairtrade field staff to support 40 saffron producer families in forming their own cooperative. It was a long process but  “Arghavan Dasht e Paeezan” co-op was finally legally registered  in October 2012 and, following a successful Fairtrade audit, has now become the world’s first Fairtrade certified saffron producer organization.

The farmers already have high expectations about the impact Fairtrade can have on their lives:

 “We expect it will enable us to raise the level of mechanization on our farms, which in turn will help us increase production. Farmers who have small pieces of land can learn to use modern technology effectively, by participating in training programs. We will then be able to improve our production and increase our annual income”.

When asked what Fairtrade Premium projects/activities they hope to develop, they told us:

“The Fairtrade Premium from the sale of our saffron will create a great sense of motivation and encouragement to us farmers. Projects such as purchasing appropriate cloth, hygienic gloves and proper tools for all members of the cooperative will enable us to perform better while further improving the quality of our saffron.   Another major project is to convert to organic farming practices, so we can produce organic saffron which is in demand from consumers”.

Arghavan Dasht e Paeezan’s Fairtrade saffron will soon be on sale in Switzerland.

If you are interested in sourcing Fairtrade saffron, please contact Sumedha Karunatillake: s.karunatillake-external@fairtrade.net

Like your coffee? Like it Fairtrade? Then keep up with our friends at  www.fairtradeamerica.org! Fairtrade America is the new organization representing the international Fairtrade system in the USA.
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In this photo: Birhanu Kabeto, a member of the Fero Cooperative in YIrgalem, Ethiopia, drops coffee cherries into his basket.

Like your coffee? Like it Fairtrade? Then keep up with our friends at  www.fairtradeamerica.org! Fairtrade America is the new organization representing the international Fairtrade system in the USA.

Share this picture & follow along!

In this photo: Birhanu Kabeto, a member of the Fero Cooperative in YIrgalem, Ethiopia, drops coffee cherries into his basket.

Sports clubs, computer literacy training, crèches, a leadership training camp…Bosman wine estate’s Fairtrade project report makes for impressive reading! All these projects were organized by the Joint Body: a committee made up of workers and management on Fairtrade estates and plantations, which manages the Fairtrade Premium money and consults with their fellow workers on the best way to spend it.One particularly interesting initiative is a gardening competition: Workers compete for prizes for best ornamental garden and best food garden. As well as creating a sense of pride in their homes and community, the competition also helps the workers to grow their own fruit and vegetables and become more self-sufficient. The winners receive vouchers for the local garden centre, or gardening equipment to spruce up their gardens further.Cilmor wine estate’s Joint Body travelled to Bosman’s to get inspiration for their own Fairtrade projects…and they certainly weren’t disappointed. They came away with many new ideas to share with their fellow workers and a much broader view of what is possible with a committed and hard-working Joint Body.Read more about the Cilmor exchange visit here.

Sports clubs, computer literacy training, crèches, a leadership training camp…Bosman wine estate’s Fairtrade project report makes for impressive reading!

All these projects were organized by the Joint Body: a committee made up of workers and management on Fairtrade estates and plantations, which manages the Fairtrade Premium money and consults with their fellow workers on the best way to spend it.

One particularly interesting initiative is a gardening competition: Workers compete for prizes for best ornamental garden and best food garden. As well as creating a sense of pride in their homes and community, the competition also helps the workers to grow their own fruit and vegetables and become more self-sufficient. The winners receive vouchers for the local garden centre, or gardening equipment to spruce up their gardens further.

Cilmor wine estate’s Joint Body travelled to Bosman’s to get inspiration for their own Fairtrade projects…and they certainly weren’t disappointed. They came away with many new ideas to share with their fellow workers and a much broader view of what is possible with a committed and hard-working Joint Body.

Read more about the Cilmor exchange visit here.

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Malin Olofsson, Fairtrade liaison officer in South Africa joins Fairtrade wine producers on a journey of discovery….

 “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

Exchange visits are a great way of involving producers in a more active approach to learning. To see what other farms have achieved and to learn from their struggles, mistakes and achievements is an invaluable experience.

Workers from Cilmor wine farm in South Africa were recently able to benefit from such a visit. Having been inspired by stories from other Fairtrade farms at a workshop, they wanted to go and see their projects first-hand. So they planned it into their budget, and I happily accompanied them on their trip!

First stop was Fairhills, another wine farm in the Western Cape. They shared about their many various projects to date, giving details about the process and challenges along the way. What was most interesting for the Cilmor group was to find out just how much support, both in cash and in kind, they have being able to leverage as a result of being Fairtrade certified. By approaching individual retailers and government departments they have received funding for specific projects such as a library, computer centre and building a primary school. This means they can use their Fairtrade Premium income to fund the day-to-day running of the projects.

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They have even been able to hire a psychologist and set up a rehabilitation programme: a really valuable investment for a community where alcoholism is rife. This approach left the Cilmor visitors with much food for thought.

The women of the Tighanimine Cooperative 
The fact that Agadir in southwest Morocco has an abundance of argan trees was not lost on a group of village women in a literacy class organized by Nadia Fatmi. They also knew that their region was very poor, and they had no means of generating income for themselves.
Given that argan trees only grow in that part of the world, and that the oil had been a staple in homes in the village for some time, the women in Fatmi’s literacy class decided to do something to lift themselves out of poverty.
In 2007, they started the world’s first argan oil cooperative - Tighanimine - which became Fairtrade certified in 2011.
"It is the ancestral work of women in the south of Morocco," says Tighanimine spokeswoman, Afafe Daoud. "They are the only ones who can break the fruit and extract the oil."
Argan oil has become a key ingredient of luxury cosmetics, and quickly found markets around the world.
By forming a cooperative, the 60 women farmers of Tighanimine challenged a long-standing tradition in their area that a woman’s husband or father was the sole bread-winner.
"They were financially dependent on men, one hundred percent" says Daoud.
Initially, the men resisted the women’s initiative – that is, until the extra money started to come in.
"Little by little, when they began to see the economic benefits, they became more cooperative and even encouraged other women to join the cooperative," Daoud recalls..
Tighanimine’s Fairtrade volume remains relatively low, but the cooperative was recently licensed to sell their argan oil with the FAIRTRADE Mark. They have developed their own brand called Tounaroz and plan to sell in Morocco, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the USA. Moving up the value chain ensures that even more benefits reach the women in the cooperative.
In addition to developments on the market side, the cooperative was given an award by the Moroccan Network for Social and Solidarity Economy and the Pan-African Institute for Development for its work in good governance and economic development. And, Fatmi has since been elected to the chair of Fairtrade North African Board.
Daoud says it’s easy to see some of the effects Tighanimine has had on the women – such as nicer clothes for themselves or their children, or households that are better maintained. Other benefits, says Daoud, are less obvious.
"Women who work in the cooperative began to have more confidence in themselves, because they feel important in their home."
Read more stories of Fairtrade women in our piece celebrating Internationa Women’s Day last Friday.

The women of the Tighanimine Cooperative

The fact that Agadir in southwest Morocco has an abundance of argan trees was not lost on a group of village women in a literacy class organized by Nadia Fatmi. They also knew that their region was very poor, and they had no means of generating income for themselves.

Given that argan trees only grow in that part of the world, and that the oil had been a staple in homes in the village for some time, the women in Fatmi’s literacy class decided to do something to lift themselves out of poverty.

In 2007, they started the world’s first argan oil cooperative - Tighanimine - which became Fairtrade certified in 2011.

"It is the ancestral work of women in the south of Morocco," says Tighanimine spokeswoman, Afafe Daoud. "They are the only ones who can break the fruit and extract the oil."

Argan oil has become a key ingredient of luxury cosmetics, and quickly found markets around the world.

By forming a cooperative, the 60 women farmers of Tighanimine challenged a long-standing tradition in their area that a woman’s husband or father was the sole bread-winner.

"They were financially dependent on men, one hundred percent" says Daoud.

Initially, the men resisted the women’s initiative – that is, until the extra money started to come in.

"Little by little, when they began to see the economic benefits, they became more cooperative and even encouraged other women to join the cooperative," Daoud recalls..

Tighanimine’s Fairtrade volume remains relatively low, but the cooperative was recently licensed to sell their argan oil with the FAIRTRADE Mark. They have developed their own brand called Tounaroz and plan to sell in Morocco, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the USA. Moving up the value chain ensures that even more benefits reach the women in the cooperative.

In addition to developments on the market side, the cooperative was given an award by the Moroccan Network for Social and Solidarity Economy and the Pan-African Institute for Development for its work in good governance and economic development. And, Fatmi has since been elected to the chair of Fairtrade North African Board.

Daoud says it’s easy to see some of the effects Tighanimine has had on the women – such as nicer clothes for themselves or their children, or households that are better maintained. Other benefits, says Daoud, are less obvious.

"Women who work in the cooperative began to have more confidence in themselves, because they feel important in their home."

Read more stories of Fairtrade women in our piece celebrating Internationa Women’s Day last Friday.

Kady Waylie, a cotton farmer in Sitaoulé Bananding, Senegal, throws freshly picked cotton onto a heap. The harvest is a celebration that marks the end of a season’s hard work.
Photo by Sean Hawkey, who has a photo exhibition coming up in Dublin for Fairtrade Fortnight. Check out all the Fairtrade Fortnight activities throughout the UK and Ireland!

Kady Waylie, a cotton farmer in Sitaoulé Bananding, Senegal, throws freshly picked cotton onto a heap. The harvest is a celebration that marks the end of a season’s hard work.

Photo by Sean Hawkey, who has a photo exhibition coming up in Dublin for Fairtrade Fortnight. Check out all the Fairtrade Fortnight activities throughout the UK and Ireland!

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