Consumers who pay extra for coffee or other products with Fairtrade labels may not be helping the lives of the world’s poor, a new study suggests. Researchers from SOAS, University of Londonm spent four years looking at coffee, tea and flower workers in Ethiopia and Uganda. The study finds some at Fairtrade sites earning less than those at workplaces that are not Fairtrade certified.
Putting aside the controversy over the accuracy of the study, I’ve long held the belief that Fairtrade certification is a huge, expensive pain in the behind for farmers. I say that as a farmer who has looked into the benefits of getting the certification. It is basically a barrier to entry for small holder farmers. Customers have been sold that Fairtrade is fare trade when it actually isn’t. It is an artificial bar developing farmers have to jump through in order for their products to reach international customers.
I would rather my products make it or break it in the market based on the quality, not some foreign stamp of approval. In other words, I’d rather spend good money improving the quality of my product and the lives of the people that produce them, than sweating the time and money suck that is the application process.