The Fair Trade movement is attempting to use consumer power to tackle poverty in developing countries. It ensures producers are paid a 'fair' or 'living' wage and enables them to develop a degree of control over their circumstances. Its benefits include:
- Regular income for producers
- Reliable and adequate pay for workers
- Safe and healthy working conditions
- Improved living conditions
- Increased sustainability of production
There has been criticism of Fair Trade, suggesting that too many of the extra pennies paid by consumers end up in the hands of middle men and that it does not always guarantee individuals get a fair price. There is also an argument that Fair Trade is just another market intervention, rather than a solution to global poverty.This is not easy to answer but it can be said that, in principle, the Fair Trade accreditation scheme and all it stands for is a worthwhile investment in people and the environment. Furthermore, Fair Trade exists as a result of a global inequality in economies and skewed international trade rules that favour developed nations. The scheme is designed as an interim measure to try and protect those most affected by the current situation and not as a finite solution. It is the hope that there will be a time when Fair Trade is not needed. In the meantime however, buying Fair Trade products is one way to ensure your cup of coffee does not leave a bitter after-taste elsewhere in the world.
As with organic, Fair Trade no longer applies just to food. Foreign garment workers, for example, are amongst the most exploited groups of workers.