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Fairtrade: The Mark of empowerment

Photo/Josh Griggs.

Discover how your support for Fairtrade makes a real difference to millions of lives.

You might recognise the Fairtrade Mark from coffee, chocolate, tea and other products. The blue, green and black image symbolises a farmer waving – it’s at the bottom of this article. But do you know what the logo represents?

Fairtrade is about empowering farmers and workers in developing countries to get a better deal through fairer prices, decent conditions and favourable terms of trade. Fairtrade also incorporates efforts towards achieving gender equality and is working to mitigate the damaging effects of climate change.

Each August, Fairtrade Fortnight is a reminder that you can make a big difference to families and communities by buying products carrying the Fairtrade Mark – because, unfortunately, the trade structures for many of the goods we use and take for granted every day can be deeply unfair. For example, the price of coffee on the New York commodity exchange has recently plummeted to a record low, and beans are now being sold below production cost.

That means many coffee farmers are making a loss simply by growing and harvesting their crops, leaving millions of families in poverty and placing the future of the industry at risk. Fairtrade works to counter this inequality by requiring companies to pay at least a Fairtrade Minimum Price set to cover the sustainable cost of production, or the market price when it’s higher. Companies must also pay an additional sum of money, the Fairtrade Premium, which farmers and workers democratically decide how to invest. It can be spent on a range of initiatives, from training and business management to community development efforts, such as in education, access to clean water and healthcare.

The positive impact of Fairtrade is felt by producers in developing countries around the world, including our neighbours in the Pacific Islands and Papua New Guinea. An example of this is Highlands Organic Agricultural Cooperative (HOAC) in PNG’s Eastern Highlands Province, which supplies high-quality coffee beans to many of New Zealand’s most popular coffee companies, such as Grounded Coffee, Havana, Karajoz, Coffix and Kōkako. Since becoming Fairtrade-certified in 2004, HOAC has used the Fairtrade Premium to buy coffee-pulping machines to increase production efficiency, provide access to clean water, fund the construction of school buildings and supply roofing iron to improve housing quality. The members of HOAC are among the more than 1.6 million farmers and workers benefiting from the Fairtrade system.

By buying products carrying the Fairtrade Mark, you don’t just get great quality, but also have a chance to make a real difference to the lives of the people behind the products. If you’re not already buying certified products, Fairtrade Fortnight is the perfect opportunity to start a powerful, positive habit that you can keep all year round.

Look for the Mark of empowerment. 

See fairtrade.org.nz for more information.