Find Aliya Zaidi’s piece on fair trade in our magazine here.

Fairtrade responded to our article with the following comments:

Costs to Farmers

Although there is a cost associated with Fairtrade certification, this is necessary with any credible certification programme because of the cost of employing professional, trained people to visit producers to check that standards are being met. However, small farmers’ organisations who do not have sufficient funds to pay for the certification fee (or to renew their certification) can apply to Fairtrade’s Producer Certification Fund for a grant of up to 75% of the certification fee. In addition, trading partners or development NGOs often work with poorer organisations to help them achieve certification. It is also worth noting that it was in fact producers who requested that a certification fee be introduced, to speed up the process of achieving certification, and the Fairtrade system is 50%owned by producers, so they are involved in setting prices, premiums and standards that work well for producers.

How much of my certified product is Fairtrade?

Some products, such as chocolate bars, are a composite of Fairtrade ingredients from developing countries (such as sugar, cocoa, honey and vanilla) and ingredients sourced more locally from UK or European farmers (such as milk or eggs), which are not available on Fairtrade terms. When a product carries the FAIRTRADE Mark, it means that any ingredient that it contains which can be Fairtrade, is Fairtrade. This means that cocoa farmers and sugar farmers can sell their produce to chocolate companies on Fairtrade terms, even though Fairtrade milk, for example, is not available.

Mixing Beans

The chocolate industry is not always able to keep Fairtrade cocoa and non-Fairtrade cocoa separate at every stage of production. Because of this, Fairtrade (and other ethical certification schemes) use a system called ‘mass balance’. If a chocolate bar carrying the FAIRTRADE Mark uses 500 tonnes of cocoa, then the manufacturer must purchase 500 tonnes of cocoa on Fairtrade terms, including the payment of an additional $200 Fairtrade Premium per tonne to the farmers. This means that even if the beans are later mixed with non-Fairtrade beans – as often happens – Fairtrade cocoa farmers still get 100 per cent of the benefits, and the better deal that the FAIRTRADE Mark stands for.