Fair Trade versus Direct Trade
One of our local student papers, The Standard, had an article on fair trade and direct trade today.
‘Trend to benefit farms‘ included interviews with the owners of Global Fayre, Askinosie’s Chocolate and the Coffee Ethic, with their different viewpoints on fair trade and how and why it differed to direct trade. The article was interesting (and it’s great to see The Standard cover this type of topic) but I think is missed the core point, namely that fair and direct trade are not mutually exclusive. Fair trade does not automatically mean that quality is somehow compromised, or that levels of payment are restricted at an artificially low level.
As it gains in popularity, discussions about fair trade seem to be getting mired down in relatively subtle differences between the different models of fair and direct trade, and the different bodies and certifications available. It feels very like the discussions that centred around the term ‘organic’ 10 years or so ago.
Anyone involved in working with groups in developing countries has, of course, the right to use whatever model works for them. But, it would be great if we could focus more on the real prize, raising awareness with end consumers so that demand for ethically-sourced products increases, and less on the differences between the detail of our particular models of fair or direct trade.