Fair Trade?

Mark Sidwell argues that FAIRTRADE keeps uncompetitive farmers on the land, holding back diversification and mechanization. According to Sidwell, the FAIRTRADE scheme turns developing countries into low-profit, labor-intensive agrarian ghettos, denying future generations the chance of a better life.

This is without considering the effect that FAIRTRADE has on the poorest people in these countries – not farmers but casual laborers – who are excluded from the scheme by its expensive regulations and labor standards. In other words, FAIRTRADE protects farmers against their rivals and against agricultural laborers.

Consumers, Sidwell argues, are also being duped. Only a tiny proportion – as little as 1% – of the premium that we pay for a FAIRTRADE chocolate bar will ever make it to cocoa producers. Nor is FAIRTRADE necessarily a guarantee of quality: because producers get a minimum price for fair-trade goods, they sell the best of their crop on the open market.

via “Why Fair Trade?” by Robert Skidelsky | Project Syndicate.

Skidelsky doesn’t dispute Sidwell’s points, yet he goes on to say that “fair trade” is a good thing. Why?

 the movement represents a spark of protest against mindless consumerism, grass-roots resistance against an impersonal logic, and an expression of communal activism.

Hmmm. Well, grass-roots resistance to logic certainly sound like a good idea! As for “mindless consumerism”, wouldn’t simply consuming less be a more effective form of protest? I suspect the major reason is the desire to do good and to be seen as doing good

Fairtrade Certified quinoa producers in Ecuador

Fairtrade Certified quinoa producers in Ecuador (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

, coupled with simply not thinking things through.

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