Fair Trade: Is That Good for Us?

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The Coffee World Map (source: www.gardfoods.com)

What is fair trade? Let us refer to the definition in Wikipedia. It says, “Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries and promote sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as social and environmental standards in areas related to the production of a wide variety of goods. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate and flowers.”

In other words, fair trade is kind of “conscientious consumption”. That is, you can buy products in a reasonable price, at the same time which develops opportunities to people (most of them are poor famers, or handicraftsmen) in the area of origin. It’s beneficial to both sides.

In China, the rural areas take a large amount of country, and the number of farmer is the largest in the world. But many farmers are living in a low lever living quality, what they owned for one year’s labor may only afford their living. If fair trade be the mainstream market in agriculture of China, Chinese farmers will get the maximum benefit. While at this time, it is hard to reach that. More realistically, requesting developed to reduce agricultural subsidies will be an efficient way, which can decrease the import from other countries and leave enough market to the local farmers.

In 2003, Dr. Liang did an investment in Guangxi province (in the western part of China), and wrote a report about the unfair trade sugar industry in China faced with. She analyzed that between 2001 and 2003, the sharp decline of international price of sugar severely damaged the Guangxi’s sugar industry, which leaded to the low income for the sugar farmers. Dr. Liang indicated that if there were a fair trade organization, the situation will not be that worse.

In most time, poverty and hardship limit people’s choices while market forces tend to further marginalise and exclude them. But fair trade can draw consumers closer to producers, and reduce the unnecessary exploitation in the market. Now fair trade has some large organizations such The Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), The World Fair Trade Organization, The Network of European Worldshops (NEWS), The European Fair Trade Association (EFTA). There are 25 stores approved by World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) in Asia, including an embroidery company in Yunan.

Products: Where do you come from?

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In recent years, some Japanese products are pretended to be made in China, which rises the “fake wind” of the food industry. It is reported that one fruit company in Shizuoka was searched for faking the bamboo shoots imported from China as home-grown. At the same day, another food processing factory labeling the Chinese eels as raised in Japan was been prosecuted by Tokyo court.

In Japan, most domestic products are more expensive than exotic ones. And the point is that Japanese products are of good quality, which is common sense in Japan. On the contrary, the passport of Chinese products is “cheap”, which means that many cheap daily necessities come from China. For example, most of the products in hundred shops (every commodities in this shop is 100 yen) are made in China. The same thing happened in Dollar store in North America.

Several days ago, one article caught my attention, which is about the bitter harvest for some Canadian wineries. In this article, it says that in Ontario some large Canadian wineries are allowed to import cheap foreign wine, blend it at Canadian facilities and bottle and sell it under the “Cellared in Canada” label. But it makes consumers think they’re buying local product when that may not necessarily be the case.

These two situations describe the similar problem, which all due to the price of the products. In my opinion, the original place of production is not so important, yet the quality of that is what we need to pay attention to.

References:

Embarrassment to Chinese products: Japanese products pretend to be made in China

Bitter harvest for some Canadian wineries

Chinese mooncake’s export face the tough time this year

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(The above graphic is from the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service homepage)

The Mid-Autumn Festival is coming soon, and eating mooncake on that day is a tradition for most of the Chinese people. For someone living overseas, they are more eager to eat mooncakes from their hometown. But this year, the mooncake export in China faces up with more strict standard set by other countries, such as the US, which restrict Chinese mooncake export.

Typical mooncakes are round or rectangular pastries, measuring about 10 cm in diameter and 4-5 cm thick. A thick filling usually made from lotus seed paste is surrounded by a relatively thin (2-3 mm) crust and may contain yolks from salted duck eggs. And many other types of fillings can be found in traditional mooncakes according to the region’s culture, for example, sweet bean paste, taro paste, jujube paste and so on.

As for import of mooncake from China, America, Canada, Spain, Australia and New Zealand all prohibited egg products in mooncake fillings. European countries have tight regulations on moon cakes with nut fillings; Japan has also added regulations about preservatives and additives used in moon cakes. France, Germany, Thailand, Sweden, Colombia, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria all prohibit the sending of moon cakes by post.

Recently, the US Food Safety and Inspection Bureau of the Department of Agriculture has mandated that food containing traces of meat, poultry and egg products need be manufactured under supervision of US food inspection authorities or trusted foreign food safety and regulation agencies before being admitted into the US. Hui Lee, a manager of a mooncake company, said: “If we make mooncake by their standard, it’s not mooncake any more. So we canceled all the orders this year.”

References:

1.Dark Side of the Moon Cake: Countries Ban Holiday Imports

2.中国月饼海外受阻 ( Export of  Chinese mooncake runs into obstacles )

3.Mooncake (from Wikipedia)

World & Human Observation