World Fair Trade Day is celebrated on the second Saturday of May and is endorsed by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), the global authority on fair trade, comprised of over 450 member organisations from 75 countries around the world. World Fair Trade Day was created by the the WFTO in 2004, though the WFTO itself came into existence 15 years earlier, in 1989.

What is fair trade? Fair trade is a social movement whose stated goal is to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions and to promote sustainability. Members of the movement advocate the payment of higher prices to exporters, as well as improved social and environmental standards. The movement focuses in particular on commodities, or products which are typically exported from developing countries to developed countries, but also consumed in domestic markets. It helps to fight poverty in developing countries and support traditional agriculture.

Fairtrade International is the most worldwide known organization providing labeling to the fair trade products. It was created in 1997, is an association of three producer networks and twenty national labeling initiatives that develop Fairtrade standards, license buyers, label usage and market the Fair trade Certification Mark in consuming countries. The Fairtrade International labeling system is the largest and most widely recognized standard setting and certification body for labeled Fair trade.

Fairtrade International provides yearly reports. The last available report says that the number of farmers and workers participating in Fairtrade grew to more than 1.65 million by the end of 2014—a growth of nine percent. Approximately 64 percent of all the farmers and workers in the Fairtrade system are located in Africa and the Middle East. The total reported Fairtrade Premium earnings grew significantly, for both small producer organizations and plantations. In comparison with 2012–13, the data for 2013–14 reported by producers show a 12 percent increase in Fairtrade Premium returns to producer organizations.

In 2013–14, small farmer organizations continued to invest their Fairtrade Premium primarily in developing and strengthening their businesses, and delivering direct benefits to their members. Nevertheless, small producer organizations use about nine percent of their Fairtrade Premium to invest in community development projects. Workers on plantations continued to invest significantly in a wide range of projects aimed at meeting workers’ needs. They elected to invest around 64 percent of their Fairtrade Premium in education, housing, healthcare, and other services for workers. Since many workers are struggling to cope with rising costs of living, benefits from the Fairtrade Premium provide essential additional support and help to fight poverty which is one of the major goals of sustainable development.

However, there is also some failures of the system of Fair Trade. Many farmers around the world are unaware of Fair Trade practices that they could be implementing to earn a higher wage. Coffee is one of the most highly traded commodities in the world, yet the farmers who grow it typically earn less than $2 a day. Moreover, some producers also profit from the indirect benefits of Fair Trade practices. For example, international plantation owners can get all additional income to themselves, while local communities still get same amount of money as their products do not have fair trade label.

Read more: Monitoring the Scope and Benefits of Fairtrade – seventh edition – 2015


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