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.