What Is Fair Trade and Why Is It Important?

WOMAN standing in sugar cane fields

When you walk through the grocery store nowadays, it seems that every product has a “label” boasting its benefits. Fancy branding throws these labels in consumers’ faces, claiming to be organic, all-natural, and non-GMO. While some of these labels are, to an extent, somewhat regulated, many food marketing terms are not. That makes discerning between products even more difficult for the consumer. There is, however, one label that does have the upper hand – Fair Trade.

What Exactly Is Fair Trade?

While becoming more popular in recent years, Fair Trade products and what that entails is still relatively unknown. The first thing to note is that Fair Trade is highly regulated, especially compared to other food marketing labels. This helps ensure that the Fair Trade label carries some weight and provides value to consumers.

For a food to be considered a “Fair Trade” product, it must abide by a series of principles and rules. In short, a Fair Trade product must be “free of forced labor or poor working conditions for laborers [and] the crops are raised through sustainable methods, and no genetically modified crops are allowed to be certified Fair Trade...and perhaps most importantly, participating in a fair trade production chain can result in huge benefits for farmers.”

The most popular and commonly purchased Fair Trade foods include cocoa, coffee, bananas, tea, and sugar. Many producers are actively working to provide Fair Trade products to consumers. At Big Country Foods, we pride ourselves on providing Fair Trade ingredients to consumers.

How Does Fair Trade Work?

“Fair Trade” produce sitting in a grocery basket on a wooden table at a market

A unique aspect of Fair Trade products is the fact that there is a “floor” price. With farm-grown and raised products, the market will typically vary from month to month and from year to year. This fluctuation can hurt small farmers and benefit large corporations. Fair Trade products limit and regulate this issue. With a set “floor” price, Fair Trade products cannot be sold below a certain price point. By setting this “floor,” small farms and underrepresented communities are not dramatically impacted by market fluctuations. This protects them from being purchased by larger farms and corporations.

Fair Trade also has a community aspect to it. There are entire farming communities comprised of small, family-run farms that engage in Fair Trade practices as a unit. Together, these communities make decisions about their future farming and crop choices through a voting system. 

Another way in which Fair Trade operates is by essentially eliminating the middle man. Fair Trade allows the producer and buyer of a product to have a direct farm-to-table relationship essentially.

Why Is Fair Trade Important?

A man standing in an organic sugar cane field, observing the crops

While other countries have worked to import more Fair Trade products, the United States is starting to see an increase in Fair Trade food popularity. In the last 22 years, the U.S. has imported over 400 million pounds of Fair Trade certified coffee, for example. Plus, big corporations are starting to make changes. McDonald’s now sells Fair Trade coffee, Cadbury utilizes Fair Trade chocolate from Ghanaian farmers, and Starbucks sells a handful of Fair Trade brews. 

At Big Country Foods, we are pleased to be another ingredient provider that also strictly adheres to providing Fair Trade products. This ensures that our products are ethically produced while also “safeguarding human well-being and natural environments.”

Fair Trade makes food production just that – fair. It is fair for the producer as the market fluctuations won’t devastate their profits. It is fair for the consumer as it removes the middleman from the purchasing process. Lastly, it is fair for humankind as a whole, ensuring that ethical practices are utilized to bring specific food products to market.

Read more about our Fair Trade process here!

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