The Fairtrade Mark


What is Fairtrade

Fairtrade is an ethical product certification mark. The mark is awarded when production meets a series of criteria established by Fairtrade, with the following objectives: that workers are not exploited, that the environment is respected and that production leads to economic and social progress facilitated by the workers themselves.

Fairtrade is the most recognised ethical certification mark in the world, and its effectiveness and impartiality are renowned and indisputable. The Fairtrade criteria to be awarded license to use the mark are described in detail on this page.
Why we need an ethical certification mark

Many food products, such as pineapples from Costa Rica, are grown by large European or American trading companies in developing countries. 
The disparity between the power of the producer/exporter, who controls the overall economy of the large areas it operates in, and the workers, often poor migrants who are not democratically organised, is enormous. Unless consumers take action and demand assurance that the goods they consume are produced fairly, this situation leads to injustice and suffering, and perpetuates the poverty and dependency of the population.
Let’s take the Costa Rican pineapple, sold by Nicofrutta, by way of example.
Most of the pineapple plantations in Costa Rica are located on the border with Nicaragua and 70% of their workforce are migrants from the neighbouring country, with temporary, short-term contracts, outsourcing agreements, and contingent contractual provisions and working conditions (sources here and here).
These workers are under threat of deportation and have no contractual power. They are far from their communities and in a foreign country. Checks on working conditions are difficult to carry out and are ineffective; there is no trade union organisation whatsoever. The Borgen Project reported that plantations are often sprayed with over 50 kinds of chemicals, and whilst the law states that people working with these chemicals must not work for more than six hours a day, it is thought that many work for up to 16 hours.
Pay for directly employed workers equates to approximately 16 euro a day, in other words the minimum legal wage in Costa Rica, but most of them work for subcontractors who are said to pay less, as occurs elsewhere, including in Italy with the worker cooperatives. 
In addition to the injustice of this situation, a system of this kind does not allow any scope for progression for the people working in the plantations. Nothing of what they earn can be saved; their income, the areas they live in and their whole lives are tied to the plantation. They are not able to accumulate any wealth or knowledge, be it as an individual or as a society. Their children will find themselves in exactly the same situation as their parents. 
Why Fairtrade awarded the Mark to Nicofrutta products

Nicofrutta pineapples come from local producer cooperatives in Costa Rica. Nicofrutta guarantees technical and financial assistance and agribusiness training to these small pineapple producers in Costa Rica, setting a fair price for the work and raw materials. A price that allows for real profit, which can be invested in the development of their community. 

These local producers are assessed by Fairtrade via Flocert, to ensure that management is democratic, workers’ rights – in particular their well-being – are respected, and that non-discriminatory practices are in place. Fairtrade also ensures that there are no instances of forced labour or child labour, which unfortunately are other prominent issues. 

Lastly, Fairtrade ensures that the plantations use the least amount of pesticides possible, are GMO-free and are designed to care for biodiversity and the environment; the very same environment that the farmers share with the flora and fauna.
Sources for Nicofrutta’s Fairtrade operating conditions here and here.

It is thanks to these choices that Nicofrutta’s pineapple is not only a healthy, natural product, but also contributes to improving the well-being of the people who grow it, who can enjoy the “fruits” of their labour, increase their assets and knowledge and, quite rightly, consistently enhance their standard of living.

Why Fairtrade

The past few years have seen a surge in ethical and ecological certification marks, such as Starbucks’ CAFE Practices, and Pasture for Life, New Forest Marque, Food Made Good, Soil Association, Free Range Dairy Pasture Promise, LEAF Marque many more. 
However, these labels are not independent, but rather were created by the very same trading companies they certify. 

Fairtrade is not and does not represent the producer/exporter or the farmer. It requires and ensures that producers/exporters pay a fair price to farmers, and that farmers have democratic, fair procedures in place that also care for their well-being and the environment. Flocert, the inspection body, is a non-profit organisation operating under German law, and is therefore subject to all relative inspections by law.

 On the other hand, the marks that trading companies award themselves bind them to procedures set by themselves, and they themselves verify and deem whether these are complied with. Quis custodiet custodes? 
There's more: these self-imposed obligations do not transfer any rights to the farmers. Any “fair” price is inevitably a gift from the trading company, and as such can be revoked, be subject to conditions or intended for one person as opposed to another. It essentially becomes a form of control. 
Economists have even debated how this proliferation of “ethical” labels can do more harm than good: by drowning the consumer in a sea of information and forcing them into an impossible search as to which so-called fair business is indeed fair, they are in fact removing the consumer’s power to make a difference.  
The Guardian reports: “I think companies are hoping that label fatigue is an enduring trend,” said Elizabeth Bennett, a political economist who co-edited the Handbook of Research on Fair Trade. “They’re hoping that consumers are tired of learning what 30 different labels in one sector mean, and that we’ll all just think: ‘Any claim of sustainability is an improvement over no claim.’”
We are very happy with our decision

For all the reasons listed above, we are extremely happy with our decision, as it is the only option to clearly inform consumers that the product they are buying comes from a fair and sustainable supply chain, and therefore buying it will not harm, but rather significantly help the weakest links in that supply chain.