Fair Trade Certifier Weakens Small Farmer Movements

On September 8th, TransFair USA (recently renamed FairTrade USA) sent out a press release announcing their new initiative, entitled Fair Trade For All.  While not explicitly stated as...

On September 8th, TransFair USA (recently renamed FairTrade USA) sent out a press release announcing their new initiative, entitled Fair Trade For All.  While not explicitly stated as such, the initiative reflects a dramatic change in direction allowing the certification of plantations in the coffee and cocoa Fair Trade product categories.  Small farmer and progressive Alternative Trade organizations have struggled to prevent plantations from being part of the Fair Trade system for close to a decade.  When FLO International protested the unilateral action, FairTrade USA responded by withdrawing from the global Fair Trade system.

Below is the statement from the CLAC with a brief introduction from Rob Everts affirming Equal Exchange’s position on this matter.

“While this news will have been missed by most, those who follow the inner workings of fair trade certification have likely heard of the decision of Transfair USA to pull out of its international umbrella organization FLO and go it alone.  In our opinion, this represents a continuation of Transfair’s years-long practice of playing to its own set of rules, almost always to the benefit of large scale players in the commodities world and against the interests of Fair Trade’s original primary stakeholders:  organized groups of small scale farmers.  We would like to take this opportunity to post the position statement of the CLAC, the coordinating body of fair trade producer groups in Latin America and the Caribbean.  We endorse their position.” – Rob Everts, Co-Director, Equal Exchange 

San Salvador, El Salvador

September 22nd, 2011

The Latin American and Caribbean Network of Small Fair Trade Producers (CLAC) is a founding member and co-owner of Fairtrade International, and is strongly committed to the future of Fair Trade for disadvantaged producers.

The CLAC represents democratically organized small farmers, and addresses the strengthening and development of grassroots organizations promoting their products and values; does advocacy within the framework of fair trade, being strongly committed to self-management and empowerment of Small Farmers’ Organizations.

The CLAC is also committed to the mandate of its last Assembly in November 2010, where delegates from 70 organizations representing more than 119.761 farmers, reaffirmed their support to saying No to the Certification of Plantations and Contract Production of certified products in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Therefore, we as CLAC join the regret caused by the departure of FAIRTRADE USA and we express the fact that we cannot share its new vision of expansion, since it threatens the empowerment, development and self-management of small organized producers.

We also feel it is the right moment to propose a review of the current system requesting FLO to stop the certification of plantations (HL) in Latin America and the Caribbean, to commit itself by not certifying contract production (CP) of any product and to serve the healthy interests of small organized producers; thus CLAC will commits itself to actively continue assisting FLO in promoting and making Fair Trade grow in the world, fulfilling the mission of empowering disadvantaged producers and generating development through trade and self-management, and also representing workers of already certified plantations, so they may have better organizational opportunities and decision making on their future.

We propose to continue working together for a global fair trade that respects and promotes the original values and principles that brought us together.

On behalf of the CLAC,

Merling Preza Ramos

Board President

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