Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Two things today.

1) Great video on how coffee is grown, picked, processed, and roasted from the show, Dirty Jobs. This really helps to give a sense of the hard work farmers put in to make the coffee we enjoy daily. Also, it's important to keep in mind while watching this video that the farmers working here are from the United States, and the equipment they use can be more advanced than farmers in developing countries where most of Fair Trade coffee is grown. Fortunately, Fair Trade helps to improve the equipment available to these farmers (more on that later), but not all cooperatives are at a point where they can afford such things. One new development that is important in the Fair Trade Movement is the Responsible Sourcing Project, a collaborative effort between Walmart, Sam's Club, USAID, TransFair USA, and several Brazil non-profit organizations. The partners of the project committed to giving $1.9 million in investments and technical support to help 5,000 farmers from the Brazilian states of Sao Paolo, Minas Gerais and Espiritu Santo increase coffee quality, improve cooperative management and enhance marketing between 2007 and 2010. In Brazil, there are many small coffee farmers, but the large majority of exports is controlled by large companies. This project hopes to help the small-scale farmers by providing them with the tools they need to access more international markets. In addition to helping with the investment money, Walmart has also launched "Sam's Choice," a Fair Trade Certified coffee brand that includes three Brazilian Fair Trade coffees. More information on this project is available here. There are also pictures posted of one of TransFair USA's trips to Brazil to visit the cooperatives that are receiving part of this investment money. These are available on TransFair's Flickr, and they seem to complement this video on coffee growing well. So, with that in mind:

2) There's a really great discussion on Fair Trade that began with a post on the GoodEater blog. If you scroll down, one of the responses to this great blog post is also really interesting. Feel free to add to that conversation! There's definitely more to be said! GoodEater Blog Post

These two points both bring up the sometimes thorny situation of corporation involvement in the Fair Trade movement. Obviously, there are pros and cons about this, and this blog will be touching on some of those later. In the meantime, what are your THOUGHTS on the involvement of corporations in Fair trade? Is it a good thing? A necessary evil? Selling out? Helping out? Let us know what you think!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Interesting story on Fair Trade by Seattle KBCS 91.3's Green A.C.R.E.S. radio show. The show interviews TransFair USA's Paul Rice and Theo Chocolate.

Click to hear the story!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fair Trade Videos

When is the United States gonna get Fair Trade ads like this? They're awesome.

What are your favorite Fair Trade videos? Post a link!

The Banana Wars and Fair Trade

A banana worker in the Dominican Republic takes Fair Trade Certified bananas to be washed and packed

This is a long one!

The EU is close to reaching an agreement with Latin America that will put an end to the 16-year so-called “banana wars” that have favored Caribbean, African, and Pacific region countries over larger banana producing countries in Latin America. The agreement comes after years of ongoing negotiations, and while it is welcomed by Latin America, the United States, and the WTO who have long complained that the EU’s policies violate international free trade agreements, it has angered many Europeans, Caribbean citizens, and Africans who argue that an end to the banana wars will destroy the livelihoods of thousands of small farmers.

Since 1993, the European Union has favored many of its former colonies in the Caribbean, Pacific region, and Africa, known as the ACP countries, by importing their produce without tariffs, and placing a large duty on produce from other countries. This has helped smaller, developing countries compete against larger producing regions, such as Latin America, known as “dollar banana” areas for how low the prices of their produce—mostly bananas—are. As a result, the ACP countries have experienced almost exclusive access to European markets for sixteen years. And because a large percentage of ACP countries produce Fair Trade Certified fruit, Europeans have had access to a large quantity of Fair Trade produce for many years. In fact, 51,336 tons of Fair Trade bananas were sold in Europe in 2003, and 47% of Switzerland and 6% of the United Kingdom’s national market for bananas is Fair Trade Certified. With the coming agreement to end the banana wars, however, the exclusivity the ACP countries have benefited from will come to an end, and the future of large Fair Trade Certified banana sales in the UK could be threatened.

Latin American countries don’t see it that way, however. For years, they have felt barred from European markets by tariffs applied discriminately. Large “dollar banana” companies, like Chiquita and Dole, that dominate the United States’ banana market, have been largely absent from European supermarkets. Instead, more expensive produce from the smaller ACP countries has been available. The Latin American countries would bring cheaper produce to Europe, something that is supported by many European consumers feeling the squeeze from an economic recession. Further, the agreement reached between Europe and Latin America would reduce the tariff slowly over a period of four years, and the EU would give almost 200 million Euros in aid to the ACP countries in order to help them become more competitive in the changed market. From a Latin American perspective, the agreement helps to make trade more free, and puts an end to a discriminatory trade policy.

Image Above): A banana worker on a Fair Trade Certified farm in Ecuador

Nevertheless, many Europeans and citizens of the ACP countries are outraged. Banana imports to Europe from the ACP is projected to decline by about 14% over the next seven years. For an ACP nation like the Windward Islands, where between 80 and 90 percent of their exports are bananas, the effects of that decline could be devastating. The Following a leak of the agreement’s details, ministers of the ACP issued a statement that stated that “the coming days could spell the end of the era when Europe considered the fight against poverty a priority.” For these leaders, Europe’s decision to end the trade policies that have kept the ACP countries afloat since 1993 is akin to Europe turning its back on the fight against poverty.

Obviously, the issue is a complicated one. In terms of Fair Trade, the fear is that this agreement will devastate the livelihoods of many of the farmers that produce Fair Trade Certified products; at the same time, however, the agreement could help other small farmers from Latin America with Fair Trade Certified produce gain access to the European markets they have been unable to export to for so long. Ecuador, for example, makes up 42% of the Fair Trade Certified banana market. Decreased tariffs will allow its farmers access to the European market.

The agreement was set to be finalized by the end of November, however, the controversy surrounding it, and the outcry from the ACP countries has prolonged the negotiations. We’ll update as soon as more information is known.

In the meantime, what is your opinion on the end to the “banana wars”?

Our neighbors to the north just added a new Fair Trade Town to their growing list. Olds, a town in Alberta, became the sixth Fair Trade Town in Canada. For the members of the Olds community, working to become a Fair Trade town made a lot of sense. Olds is the home of Olds College, an agricultural college where many students learn about the challenges and difficulties that agricultural farmers face around the world. In a news article published on the CTV Calgary website, one Olds citizen and member of the Olds College Student Association, James Papineau, was quoted as saying, "We are an agricultural college, we are an agricultural town, so it is a perfect fit for us…what we do here and what we study and also what we practice is a perfect fit for the fair trade."

The effort to become a Fair Trade Town started with a few individuals coming together and forming a steering committee. Then, they lobbied their town council to gain its support. Olds currently has about a dozen businesses that support Fair Trade by selling Fair Trade Certified products in their stores. The Olds Fair Trade Committee plans to add at least two businesses to that list every year. Says one of the leading members of the steering committee, "Every time we set foot in a store, the choices we make result in a rippling wave effect around the globe. We can all make better, more educated choices to ensure that those waves are helping and not harming people and our planet.”

Congratulations to Olds, Alberta! Seeing successful attempts to gain the status of Fair Trade Town around the world helps make Oakland’s goal seem that much more obtainable.

The information for this post came from the CTV Calgary article (http://bit.ly/082JBc9), and from the TransFair Canada website (http://bit.ly/6IWbat). Fair Trade Towns in Canada are designated based on criteria approved by TransFair Canada. More information about Canada Fair Trade Towns can be found here: http://transfair.ca/en/get-involved/fair-trade-towns.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Welcome to the Fair Trade Oakland blog! This blog will chronicle Oakland's effort to become a Fair Trade Town.

In becoming a Fair Trade Town, Oakland would be joining thirteen declared Fair Trade Towns from across the United States. Fair Trade Towns are part of the Fair Trade Towns USA national movement uniting community activists from across the country who are dedicated to the principles of Fair Trade. By organizing our communities at the local level a tangible impact can be made on the US market to demand that international justice and equity for producers, artisans, farmers, and workers around the world is a priority of our system of international commerce.

In order to become a Fair Trade Town, several criteria need to be met. Fair Trade Towns must:

• Form a steering committee that meets regularly
• Ensure a range of Fair Trade products are available in local stores, cafes, and other venues
• Engage local organizations, such as places of worship, schools, hospitals, and offices in serving Fair Trade products
• Work with the town or city council to pass a resolution supporting Fair Trade and the local campaign
• Attract media attention and visible public support, including press and radio

Fair Trade Towns provides a way for people with similar visions, in the same community, to make a difference that they can see. Making Oakland a Fair Trade Town is an exciting process, and one that requires assistance from activists and interested members throughout the community. If you are interested in helping this effort, please start by spreading the word about this blog and our efforts! To get involved, contact us at FairTradeOakland@gmail.com, or attend one of our meetings. The next meeting will be Wednesday, November 25th. We'll make more announcements about the details as the date approaches.