Image freely adapted by Max Havelaar Denmark of Joe Prado's Supergirl.
Shows shoppers slam dunking Fair Trade stuff into their carts. The woman dunking bananas and the guy boomeranging a shirt are great.
Fair Trade in five minutes
At it heart, Fair Trade means that the importers of Fair Trade roses or Fair Trade Pinot Noirs have paid a standard 'fair wage' to the producers of the roses and the grapes - even if world commodity prices dip. In 2007, sales of Fair Trade products represented about a $3.5 billion market - a tiny blip in world trade, but a 47% increase from the previous year's reckoning. Perhaps an even more important statistic is this: estimates from June 2008 show globally around 7.5 million farmers/producers and their families benefiting from the Fair Trade system. That's an impressive figure. Fair Trade has managed to buck the economic downturn - in the UK market over 70 percent of households purchased something Fairtrade in 2008, and sales increased 43% over 2007.
There are opponents of Fair Trade that feel the system is a distortion of the free market, that it creates 'insider' markets, and that it imposes a 'Northern' view of fairness on a 'Southern' set of market players. To counter, Fair Trade organizers say it is the only guarantee on the market that producers are "receiving an agreed and stable price and money to invest in their communities". Fair Trade's international organization publishes the amounts and is audited.
Why Fair Trade lags in the U.S.
In the U.S. it is TransFair that is the only third-party certification organization of Fair Trade goods. TransFair promotes Fair Trade products, but at the retail level there has been a bottleneck getting the goods into the places where people can buy them. That is changing as players like Wal-Mart put some Fair Trade goods on the shelves.
Only about half of shoppers in the U.S. and in other markets are aware that FairTrade even exists, according to an April 2009 survey. And while FairTrade sales rose significantly in many Northern European nations, they climbed only 10% in the U.S. in 2007.
Still, sales have not fallen in any of the countries surveyed, at least not yet. Which brings us back to the Danish FairTrade Super Woman. Sales of Fair Trade goods rose 40% in Denmark in 2007 (the highest bump up was Finland, with a 57% increase), and Fair Trade products seem as well-publicized in Copenhagen as organic (though both are definitely less segregated than seems to be the case in some U.S. markets). And Fair Trade's Denmark organization says it thinks the trend will continue to rise, though modestly - a recent survey found 20% of Danes are planning to buy more Fair Trade, while just 4 percent thought they would shop less Fair Trade. Danes who shop Fair Trade tend to be dedicated to the brand. And those 7.5 million producers that are getting a fixed price for goods is nothing to sneer at.