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Inside the heart of Fair Trade

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When I first came across the term “Fair Trade” a few years ago, taking the compound term at first glance without more, I was under the impression that Fair Trade really had something to do simply with International Trade on more equitable grounds.

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Never had I envisaged that Fair Trade had any link to bananas, until a recent visit to a banana plot on a banana shipment day, where I observed what must be considered to be an extremely catchy form of packaging bearing the words “Fair Trade”. The research began immediately.

The principles, tenets and guiding philosophy supporting the “Fair Trade” mark as it relates to bananas are that, firstly, bananas are to be produced to a specific standard, and, secondly, the producers are to get a fair price plus a premium for investing in making social and environmental improvement. Fair Trade is therefore an investment in both quality and our society.

In this regard, the DIMONITES Youth Group among others are beneficiaries of the good-will of the Fair Trade social development policy. In effect, what “Fair Trade” does is to include the cost of social development and environmental protection in the price paid by the consumer. Pursuant to the Fair Trade Labeling Organization (FLO), the producers who in our case are mainly small farmers are guaranteed a minimum price that is calculated to cover full production cost plus a reasonable margin to meet basic needs.

The social policy of Fair Trade also includes a range of other International labor standards and health and safety requirements. Further, Fair Trade stresses that organizations must work to eliminate all forms of gender discrimination This is indeed remarkable.

As it relates to a more environmentally friendly approach, producers commit themselves to minimizing chemical applications, protecting water, soil and wildlife, and reducing and/or composting waste.

Beyond the fact of being an extremely creative form of marketing, “Fair Trade” must be seen as an equitable innovation in the sphere of Business management. What this innovation actually does is to add another “P” to the existing traditional capitalist oriented four “Ps” of marketing which are Price, Product, Place and Promotion. The fifth “P” added by Fair Trade is “People”, referring both to the consumers who now are the purchasers of a healthier fruit, and the farmers who benefit both from higher prices and the spill-offs of the social premium.

Many of my fears expressed in a recent article “Farmers: an endangered species” are addressed in a most proficient way by the “Fair Trade” approach. The vision, principles and practices of Fair Trade are needed today more than ever as the banana industry faces new challenges.

Fair Trade has been described by many banana farmers as a “saviour”. This must be understood in the context that whilst for the consumer a banana may just appear to be an easily peeled, deliciously sweet fruit packed with nutrients, to a banana farmer on the other hand, banana production is our “life”. The importance of banana production as a form of livelihood extends way beyond the borders of the Windward Islands. Today over 10 million people in 25 tropical countries depend on the banana fruit for their living. The onus is now on the farmers to keep the quality high and ensure that we maintain high levels of production.

Today, persons such as Wilberforce Emmanuel and Renrick Rose, among others, must be appreciated for their hard work in the interest of our farmers.

Before I close on this week’s comments, I express sincerest condolences to the family of the late Glenn Jackson in this their time of mourning.

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