Isn’t this just fascinating?

But instead of backslapping at the Pride hotel, the world’s largest retailer of Fairtrade products precipitated the greatest crisis in the scheme’s 25-year history by telling the 13 major tea groups and their 228,000 co-operative members that it intended to drop the globally known Fairtrade mark for their produce, and replace it with the phrase “fairly traded”.

In place of the strict rules devised by farmers’ groups working with independent development experts to guarantee consumers that small-scale farmers are being rewarded with decent pay and bonuses, the £23bn-a-year retailer said it planned to set up its own in-house certification scheme, set new ethical standards and introduce a different way to pay the groups.

So, the idea has become so mainstream that people are doing it themselves. Seems like a bit of a success really.

Because Sainsbury’s is so important for Fairtrade, the company’s move could be the beginning of the end of the scheme, and lead to lower social and labour standards, more hardship in developing countries and deep confusion among consumers, say some development and ethical trading groups.

“This move by Sainsbury’s represents a tip in the balance back to the powerful retailers,” says Sophi Tranchell, managing director of Divine Chocolate, the highly successful ethical trading company part-owned by tens of thousands of cocoa farmers in Ghana.

And mostly owned by Twin, a £10 million a year NGO providing nice incomes for some number of Jocastas.

Fairtrade took off as an idea in the 1980s as awareness grew in Europe that small farmers in developing countries were being ripped off by a grossly unfair global commodity trading system which perpetuated poverty and penalised the poorest. In 1992, a group of Britain’s leading international charities, including Oxfam and the World Development Movement, picked up on a small Dutch initiative and set up the Fairtrade Foundation.

Fairtrade International being a £20 million a year NGO which provides a nice living for a number of Jocastas.

“Fairtrade is growing worldwide, especially in south-east Asia and eastern Europe. It now benefits 1.6 million farmers worldwide, has 1,240 Fairtrade-certified producer organisations in 75 countries and last year a record £150m was sent as social premium payments to producer groups,” says Darío Soto Abril, the Colombian chief executive of the International Fairtrade organisation.

“The need to change a global food system that exploits both people and planet is greater now than ever,” says Abril. “There are new challenges. Climate change is making life harder for smallholder farmers, there is child exploitation, and many workers in developing countries are paid well below even the extreme poverty level. Fairtrade is changing to take these new challenges into account.”

Says a woman whose nice NGO job, along with that of some number of Jocastas, is threatened.

Development groups question their motives. “Why would a company like Sainsbury’s that has been such a massive champion of Fairtrade decide to take the trusted mark off their tea products, and in the process take power and value away from small African producers who already have so little? At a time when sustainable development and human rights are going up the corporate agenda, it’s hard to follow the company’s reasoning,” said Rachel Wilshaw, Oxfam’s ethical trade manager.

Says bird who can see many Jocasta Jobs heading out the door.

A statement signed by Oxfam, Cafod, Christian Aid, the Women’s Institute and several major ethical trading and co-operative groups together representing millions of consumers, urged it to rethink its plans.

Don’t threaten Jocasta Jobs say Jocastas.

“The principle of a company setting its own standards is fine, but the execution here is flawed,” said Mike Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation in London. The group is funded by the licences it issues to companies and stands to lose tens of thousands of pounds a year from Sainsbury’s withdrawal from tea – and far more if the retailer drops all its other lines.

Terribly important, Jocasta Jobs, aren’t they?

42 comments on “Isn’t this just fascinating?

  1. The big story here is that all of the globalist institutions, from the World Bank, IMF, UN, NATO, G7, EU, OECD, and of course central banks and the Jocastas in the NGOs and Charidees are basically being Uber-ed. They no longer add any value, countriess can get money from the AIIB and CHina without being lecturers on human rights and climate change by the World Bank. People can trade without the EU directives and customs union. Trump has realised that NATO, the UN and the rest are just spending US money on making themselves fee important. The smug middle class are basically redundant….and they are using the communications systems of the smug middle class (BBC, Guardian etc) to complain about it.

  2. But Sainsbury’s is still up for the Fair Tax Mark, right?

    I mean, don’t forget the rent-seeking Dicks.

  3. At a time when sustainable development and human rights are going up the corporate agenda …

    Going up the NGO’s agenda, sure. But in the wider business community? I don’t believe so.

  4. If invited to purchase some Fairtrade product, I decline politely saying, ‘The only fair trade is free trade’. This often leads to some interesting conversations…

  5. I’ll go with a bit of what Mark T is saying.

    Sainsbury’s already deal with their suppliers, so why pay Fairtrade to say, do visits, when you can do it yourself, with your own people. What are the Jocastas going to add?

    But I have a deeper suspicion, that the Jocastas aren’t doing their job. That stuff is getting through that shouldn’t be. And Sainsbury’s can see a scandal coming in future.

  6. “Because Sainsbury’s is so important for Fairtrade, the company’s move could be the beginning of the end of the scheme, and lead to lower social and labour standards, more hardship in developing countries and deep confusion among consumers,”

    A business making that sort of statement about a competitor, for that is surely what ‘fairly traded’ is, is taking a precarious step towards being litigated. Those businesses, anxious to preserve their monopolies, have a history of menacing and bullying suppliers as well. And it won’t matter a jot that those suppliers are the “poor farmers” and the cooperatives in whose interests the Cafod and Oxfam bastards claim to be acting.

    On the other hand, ‘fairly traded’ sounds remarkably close to the trademarked ‘Fair Trade’ doesn’t it.

  7. Is there any produce out there labelled as unfairly traded – it would be marvellous if there was. Hungarian wine produced in part using UK agricultural and convergence subsidies would be one example, Another is Californian wine where city taxpayers have been stiffed on subsidies and water, and the EU gets the tariff to spend on their rich friends.

  8. @Fnord

    Jocasta = upper middle class woman who does “good works” for NGO at a very reasonable six figure salary

  9. Fnord: Jobs for well-off, middle/upper class, cultural Marxist scum who have poncy names like Jocasta .

    Fairtrade has long been a boil on the arse of charity. It would be good to see it destroyed.

  10. Maybe

    Jocasta = upper middle class woman who does “good works” for NGO at a very reasonable six figure salary

    I thought more daughter in upper middle class family who does good works for NGO for configurable five figure salary while building up a CV.

  11. If they genuinely believed in helping poor farmers they’d be clamouring at the Governmenst door to get Brexit done as fast as possible and then to allow tariff free importants of all food. They’d also be begging foreign governments to let the likes of Sainsbury, Tesco et al to operate in their countries and bring in their logistics expertise to get food stuff moving. (See food waste in India and their protective policies which Tim has covered a number of times).

    They don’t, so I’ll go with rent seeking as their motive.

  12. That even the Women’s Institute is in on this says a lot about why the Conservative parliamentary majorities have disappeared over the past 25 years.

  13. Mr Ecks: Fairtrade has long been a boil on the arse of charity. It would be good to see it destroyed.

    Taxpayer funding is a boil on the arse of charity and the size of a generously upholstered third buttock. Lance that and things start looking a lot more sensible.

  14. I won’t buy anything that has a “Fair Trade” label.

    I’m all in favour of paying third world farmers a fair price for their produce, but I refuse to pay the 100% markup by the middleman just for adding a blue and green sticker.

  15. They don’t, so I’ll go with rent seeking as their motive.

    But rent seeking brilliantly disguised as worthy social enterprise.

  16. Rob,

    I wouldn’t read too much into that. Marxist scum have taken over the management of many fine old institutions. It doesn’t tell you much about the membership.

    The Guides got one of this type. But the leaders are far more conservative. And as long as they get left alone they don’t care.

  17. I’m all for the producer of the product to get a good deal. Fairtrade however is about the branding, the advertising, the promotion – the producer benefitting is a side effect.
    Perhaps with a different scheme and different ethical standards there will be less cliques, more producers taking part, less money needed to be taken by the people between the producers and the consumers.

  18. Doesn’t Fairtrade™ also insist on small scale, organic production and other ‘ethical’ folderols that hold back development?

  19. In the past when industry wanted a neutral assessment scheme to compare different operator’s products they would come together to set up something like the British Standards Institute or the IEE*. Nowadays, that would be decried as eevul capitalists protecting their business.

    *Tho’, IEE does seem to have been captured by Big RCD, where rewirable fuses are perfectly safe.

  20. Also, BiND +1

    As the world gets smaller, and communications continue to improve, those in poorer parts of the world should be doing better and better. And they are. The Fairtrade logo won’t solve corrupt or incompetent government.

    Mind you, we do still subsidise French wine production.

  21. “Because Sainsbury’s is so important for Fairtrade …”: well, if you say so. In our house they’re important mainly for bog rolls and tiramisu.

  22. Nice to know, if I ever shop back in the UK, there’ll be a lot more stuff in Sainsbury’s I can buy. I never buy anything labelled either Fair Trade or organic, if I can possibly help it.
    The Spanish seem not to have heard of fair trading & pretty well anything in the shops not labelled “organic” is thoroughly organic. Usually from somebody’s plot out in the campo.

  23. Bloke in Swindon said:
    “But I have a deeper suspicion, that the Jocastas aren’t doing their job. That stuff is getting through that shouldn’t be. And Sainsbury’s can see a scandal coming in future.”

    Could be. But possibly just that the Fair Trade gang are creaming off too much in fees. Much of that is spent on things that aren’t actually to do with “fair trade”.

    When I looked into it, there seemed to be three bits of the “fair trade” activity:
    – more money to farmers in poor countries; OK, fair enough, if people want to pay more for that;
    – funding stuff for poor farming communities – the old paternalist idea that Jocasta knows better about what is good for Pedro than Pedro does;
    – political campaigning, mostly in rich Western countries employing rich Westerners.

    Sainsbury’s can cut out the Fair Trade middleman and all the campaigners that commission is subsidising, pay as much (or more) to the farmers and lower the cost on the shelves.

    Interesting question will be whether the Sainsburys version copies the current Fair Trade requirements or drops some of it. For example the Fair Trade obsessions (someone mentioned them above) with small-scale production, no corporate structures, etc. That side of things keeps the farmers in poverty, as grateful Fair Trade clients, rather than letting them modernise their production methods and actually develop.

  24. One consequence of FairTrade that I’ve noticed is that bananas no longer seem to come from the West Inidies, but from … err… Banana Republics in Central America.

  25. How about Fairtrade cladding for buildings? Made from, say, wood, raffia and bamboo. Might do little worse than the stuff the councils have been installing.

  26. I did hear a while back from someone who had visited friends in an area doing fairtrade that it was very much a clique – you are in with the guy in charge and you can get certified, you are not liked by the guy in charge you don’t get certified.
    Being properly respectful to the visitors probably helps too – rather than looking at them like they are deranged when they tell you how to plant and what to plant…

    Never been to one of these places myself.

    When out in certain cafes we only had a choice of fairtrade for tea – a few places seem to have caught on that its not their job to insist on what the buyer should have so they do have alternate items available to buy now.
    I’ve no problem with fairtrade, I’ve a problem when someone tries to insist that’s all I’m going to get.

  27. The coffee growers here seem to make a pretty good fist of it without any Fair Trade bollocks. Their route to success is, oddly enough, lots of capital investment, good marketing and an insistence on quality.

  28. If this is an expanded version of the article that appeared in the Observer last week then the complaint is that instead of paying extra for goods Sainsbury’s are going to allow the farmers to apply for grants.

    A lookie likey system that doesn’t do what consumers have come to expect is a bit underhand.

    Whether Fair Trade as a system works is a moot point. Personally I like the idea of Fair Trade paying enough for third world farmers to make a profit and improve their lives, and possibly the environment, rather be screwed for every last cent by Nestle or General Foods or Hershey’s. I don’t find Fair Trade any lower quality or higher price than commodity products.

  29. @Andrew M, June 25, 2017 at 9:08 am
    ” ‘At a time when sustainable development and human rights are going up the corporate agenda …’

    Going up the NGO’s agenda, sure. But in the wider business community? I don’t believe so.”

    Unilever is under pressure to drop their “sustainable development and human rights” policies which reduce shareholder returns following the failed takeover bid.

    It appears it’s now “a time when sustainable development and human rights are going up down the corporate agenda.

    Good.

  30. SS

    Fair Trade is bollocks, like organic food. Even Wikipedia is a little sceptical:

    Some criticisms have been raised about fair trade systems. One 2015 study in a journal published by the MIT Press concluded that producer benefits were close to zero because there was an oversupply of certification, and only a fraction of produce classified as fair trade was actually sold on fair trade markets, just enough to recoup the costs of certification.[11] Some research indicates that the implementation of certain fair trade standards can cause greater inequalities in some markets where these rigid rules are inappropriate for the specific market.[12][13][14] In the Fair trade debate there are complaints of failure to enforce the fair trade standards, with producers, cooperatives, importers and packers profiting by evading them.

  31. @Chris Miller, June 25, 2017 at 12:26 pm
    “Doesn’t Fairtrade™ also insist on small scale, organic production and other ‘ethical’ folderols that hold back development?”

    Yes

  32. From the Fairtrade Foundation’s latest published accounts
    (year ending 31st December 2015)
    Number of employees whose emoluments, excluding employer pension costs, fell within the band
    £60,000 – £69,999 3
    £70,000 – £79,999 1
    £80,000 – £80,999 1
    £90,000 – £99,999 1

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.