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Fair Trade Explained

Updated on January 21, 2015

What is Fair Trade?

The term "fair trade" comes up on many products from coffee, tea, cocoa, and sugar. While the term is thrown around frequently, it's important to know what it means and what it encompasses. The business dictionary defines fair trade as:

A movement which strives for fair treatment for farmers. In a fair trade agreement farmers, who in other situations might be more susceptible to the will of the purchaser, will negotiate with the purchasers in order to receive a fair price for their products. Farmers who engage in fair trade also aim to pay their workers a fair price, and engage in environmentally-friendly practices.

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Tea: A Common Fair Trade Product

Tea is commonly marketed as being "fair trade"
Tea is commonly marketed as being "fair trade" | Source

Benefits for Workers

Fair trade activists claim that fair trade is good for business but also advantageous for workers and producers. Usually farmers in disadvantaged parts of the world struggle with low income, harsh working conditions and lack of control over prices. Trade is often controlled by large multinational corporations which don't have the interests of the farmers and workers in mind. Fair trade aims to improve the lives of the workers and small-scale farmers. In order for a product to be considered and labelled as "fair trade," it must meet some specific conditions.

Getting a fair trade label:

To be considered fair trade, a product must meet the following standards:

  • products must be cultivated by small-scale farms
  • salaries for workers must be at least minimum wage or higher
  • working conditions must be good
  • workers should be able to join unions
  • producers should receive a price for their products that are fair and allows them to sustain themselves adequately

If you want to read more, please check:

Fair Trade Poll

Do you specifically look for fair trade products when shopping?

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A Short Video About Fair Trade

Shopping made easy

Different countries have different symbols for "fair trade" products. Start by finding out what it looks like in your country. On your next shopping trip, look for products with that symbol and compare prices. Think about the pros and cons of what you are buying. Do you think paying an extra dollar is fair? If you think about the farmers who toiled hard to cultivate what you are buying, they deserve to be compensated for their labour. It's cheaper to exploit them, but we have to look at the social impact it is having. Maybe paying the extra dollar is a good way to make a small difference.

Types of Fair Trade Products at the Supermarket:

Look for Fair Trade products among the following:

  • coffee
  • tea
  • sugar
  • bananas
  • cocoa
  • flowers & plants
  • honey
  • rice
  • spices


Cocoa production is at the centre of the fair trade movement
Cocoa production is at the centre of the fair trade movement | Source


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    • Fred Arnold profile image

      Fred Arnold 2 years ago from Clearwater, FL

      A good movie to watch that delves into the kind of treatment farmers of all trades face is "Food, Inc." It is pretty atrocious how they are manipulated by these multinational corporations.


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for raising awareness about fair trade. This is a very nice summary of it.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I think the fair trade movement is very important and should become far more common. Thanks for sharing the information.