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Are Fairtrade products fully traceable?

For most Fairtrade products that make up 100% of the final retail product—such as coffee, spices, rice, flowers, bananas—the Fairtrade Standards call for these products to be fully traceable. Therefore, these products can be tracked at each level of the supply chain, from the farm to the store. For some other products however, this proved to be near impossible in terms of how they are processed and manufactured.       Take chocolate for example. Cocoa beans are delivered by farmers in bulk, mixed during shipping, and mixed again during manufacture. Chocolate companies cannot always keep the Fairtrade cocoa beans separate from the uncertified beans.       As opposed to restricting this entire industry from using Fairtrade cocoa—therefore disadvantaging the thousands of small farmers who would have been able to sell on Fairtrade terms—we have set up a system under ‘mass balance’ so that manufacturers can purchase exact amounts of the Fairtrade commodities needed to create their final product and bear the FAIRTRADE Mark on their packaging.       For example, for a chocolate block that uses 300 pounds of cocoa, a manufacturer must buy 300 pounds of cocoa on Fairtrade terms and pay the additional Fairtrade Premium for community development. So, even though the cocoa beans may later be mixed with cocoa bought on the conventional market, the cocoa farmers are still benefitting.       Our strict evaluation and auditing system makes sure that the amount of Fairtrade products manufactured is correct for the amount of Fairtrade commodities that have been traded.

Why doesn’t the FAIRTRADE Mark apply to American Farmers?

Fairtrade was created especially to support the world’s most disadvantaged farmers and workers, using trade as a way to encourage and build sustainable development in developing countries.       We also recognize that some farmers and farm workers in America are also struggling to make ends meet and achieve high social and environmental standards. This being said, there are some major differences between production in our country and that in developing countries.       Most farmers in developing countries do not have infrastructure support, systems or safety nets in place to assist them if they cannot get a sustainable price for their goods. Fairtrade’s expertise lie in developing standards to enable these farmers and workers to work their way out of poverty through fairer trade. If we shifted our focus to also include developed nations like the USA, it would reduce the benefits we are currently able to provide our producers—the very producers Fairtrade was created to support.

I am a student doing a project on Fairtrade; can Fairtrade America send me information?

It is always excellent to hear of the many students who complete projects on Fairtrade! Unfortunately, our limited capacity makes it very hard to personally help students with their projects. We hope that you can find all the information you need for your work on our extensive website.       Check out our Farmers and Workers pages, and also refer to the Fairtrade International website. 

Where can I get free samples of Fairtrade products for an event?

We have a limited number of free samples and want to help as many groups as we can. To order samples, please email us at events@fairtradeamerica.org.

Who is responsible for setting Fairtrade Standards?

The Standards Unit at Fairtrade International are responsible for setting the international, commodity specific standards, which include the Minimum Price and Premium payments. The process follows the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Social and Environmental Labeling, including stakeholders—such as producers, traders and non-government organizations—in the research, consultation and decision making. Read more here.

How can my producer association become Fairtrade certified?

Contact FLOCERT to certify your producer group.

Why are the same Fairtrade prices set worldwide and others set for specific countries or regions?

Some Fairtrade products—like cocoa, nuts and juices—have the same price across the world. However most products have prices set specifically for a country or region, to more accurately reflect the production costs involved, which often greatly differ.       Most commonly, Fairtrade International sets new prices at a regional level, to lessen the need for additional research, which may draw out the process of certifying new producer groups. If variances between production costs of countries within a region greatly differ, then the farmers or workers and other stakeholders agree on a price that is suitable for the entire region.

How does Fairtrade label composite products

A number of Fairtrade products are 100% Fairtrade certified, including sugar, coffee, rice, tea and flowers. Other products, however, such as cookies, chocolate and ice cream, are made with multiple Fairtrade ingredients including cocoa, vanilla and sugar, and non-certified ingredients such as eggs, milk or flour. These are called ‘composite products’.   Fairtrade has developed a number of requirements for use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on composite products - click here to find out more.

Why doesn’t Fairtrade certify coffee plantations?

Of the world’s coffee farmers, 70% are small-scale farm owners, who must deal with specific challenges in the international market. Fairtrade’s mission is to make trade fairer for these disadvantaged farmers and workers, and as such the system decided as a whole to support sustainable purchase from these small-holder farmers.

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