Meet the more unusual Fairtrade products

Fairtrade is famous for coffee and chocolate - but these are by no means the only Fairtrade items out there

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If you ask someone to name a Fairtrade product, the top two answers given are coffee and chocolate – but what other new and unusual Fairtrade items are out there?

VODKA

Created by Fair, a new company producing Fairtrade spirits, Fair Vodka is a classic drink with a twist – rather than being made from grains such as wheat or rye, it is distilled from quinoa.

The fruit for the vodka is grown by over 1,200 quinoa farmers high up in the Andean mountains of Bolivia. In return for their fruit, the farmers receive a fair price and Fairtrade premium for their produce. Once picked, the quinoa is shipped to France where it distilled, bottled and distributed to specialist food and stores across Europe.

Following its success with vodka, Fair is now developing a range of spirits, including a Fairtrade rum made with organic sugar cane grown in Belize.

GOLD

The Fairtrade Foundation estimates that nearly 100 million people depend on mining for their livelihood. Around 90% of those involved in mining are classed as small-scale and artisanal miners who face difficult – and often dangerous – working conditions, coupled with low prices.

Together, these factors make gold mining a very precarious form of employment, but it is often the only one available to people in certain parts of rural Latin America.

Through the work of the Alliance for Responsible Mining and the Fairtrade labelling Organisation, a Fairmined standard was established in 2010. There are now 32 gold traders and three producers that are registered, primarily in Latin America. Their Fairtrade status means that the workers get a minimum price and a Fairtrade premium, as well as enjoying better working conditions and the opportunity to organise themselves.

FOOTBALLS

The people sewing footballs, rugby balls and other sports balls often work in very poor conditions. With a wage based on the number of balls sewn rather than an hourly rate, the Fairtrade Foundation reports that workers often have to put in long hours for less than the minimum wage.

Over 75% of sports balls are sewn in the north of Pakistan, where, in 1996, the International Labour Organisation estimated that over 7,000 children below the age of 14 were working up to 11 hours a day sewing footballs.

Although relatively niche at the moment, Fairtrade footballs provide workers with a minimum wage and better working condition. Not only are Fairtrade producers not allowed to use child labour in the supply chain, but the guaranteed income for adult workers means that children are less likely to be forced in to work to supplement their parents’ poor wages.

DID YOU KNOW …

Sialkot (population 1.6 million) in northern Pakistan produces over 60 million hand-stitched footballs in a World Cup year …

RICE

As the most widely consumed food in the world, rice is not often seen as a part of the Fairtrade product range. However, rice growers are trading in an increasingly challenging market.

Growers in the poorest countries are often forced to sell their rice as a ‘cash crop’, meaning the whole harvest is sold for income, leaving them without an important food staple. Growers are also finding that because rice production in richer countries like Japan is effectively subsidised through government support for farmers, there can sometimes be no market for it at all.

Fairtrade is offering growers in countries such as Thailand, India and Sri Lanka the opportunity to receive a fair and consistent price for their rice. While this initiative is not yet mainstream, it is likely that Fairtrade rice will become more prevalent on supermarket shelves, with the result that growers have a more secure livelihood.

FLOWERS

Shoppers at The Co-operative Food will have seen the sale of Fairtrade roses on Valentine’s Day. These were grown and picked under Fairtrade conditions in Kenya, where the pay and conditions for workers are fair.

Large flower farms are an integral part of the global flower industry, with employees in conventional flower farms in countries as different as Columbia, Kenya and India reporting poor and insecure working conditions and the hazardous use of chemicals.

Fairtrade standards for flower industry workers helps address these issues by ensuring minimum standards and pay for the pickers, while giving the workers the opportunity to collaborate with management to decide how the Fairtrade premium is spent.

DIAMONDS … the one that got away

The 2006 film Blood Diamond has helped crystallise in people’s minds the terrible conditions associated with diamond mining in countries such as Sierra Leone: poor social and environmental conditions, irresponsible chemical use and child labour.

Attempts are being made by the Alliance for Responsible Mining, and ethical retailers to establish a Fairtrade standard for diamonds. This aims to build on the ‘conflict free’ diamonds initiative to stem the flow of rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments.

However, this does not ensure that the workers at diamond mines outside of such civil wars are receiving adequate pay and working conditions. To develop a Fairtrade standard for diamonds, a structure and monitoring system needs to be established. As such, to date there is no Fairtrade diamond.

FIND OUT MORE: View the full Fairtrade collection

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About Giles Simon

Giles Simon is the Strategic Development Manager for Co-operative News