FairTrade in opspraak

Ook Max Havelaar onder vuur

15 november - Hoe eerlijk is FairTrade? Niet, zeggen Afrikaanse onderzoeksjournalisten. Een vandaag verschenen rapport hekelt de praktijken van FairTrade. Het werd samengesteld door hetForum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). In het rapport worden keiharde conclusies getrokken.

Impression is false

The pictures of happy African farmers on the FAIRTRADE chocolate bought by consumers in the West are designed to make the consumer believe that the broad smiles are a result of actual fair trade: support and a better income. But this impression is false. Exploitation in the West African cocoa industry continues, only with a new player on the block: FAIRTRADE itself, which benefits from the extra mark-up paid by supportive consumers.

The FAIRTRADE label (issued by FAIRTRADE’s own certifying sister company Flo-Cert), hailed 20 years ago as an innovative institution which would improve the lives of farmers in the cocoa industry in West Africa, has not lived up to its promises.

Farmers selling through the FAIRTRADE circuit:

Do not receive more income for their harvests than ‘ordinary’ farmers;

Are kept uninformed about world market cocoa prices by FAIRTRADE cooperatives that are meant to empower them;

  •   Receive little or no benefits from bonuses and premiums that are paid to the FAIRTRADE cooperatives from extra FAIRTRADE moneys paid by consumers;

  •   Have often not been told how, or even that, FAIRTRADE is supposed to benefit them;

  •   Are sometimes squeezed out of farming in areas where FAIRTRADE cooperatives have become dominant.

    Additionally, in Ivory Coast, individuals in the notorious ‘cocoa mafia’ have become kingpins as partners in the FAIRTRADE cooperatives. In Ghana, where FAIRTRADE has established tight links with the state Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), agricultural experts complain that the FAIRTRADE model perpetuates the traditional ‘unfair’ trading system whereby the farmer remains at the bottom end.

    Most poignantly, annual reports of FAIRTRADE’s brand holder in the Netherlands, Max Havelaar, show that, after paying the normal market price for cocoa, the party making the most extra money out of FAIRTRADE cocoa sold is FAIRTRADE itself. Max Havelaar makes around 6 US cents from every FAIRTRADE chocolate bar of US$ 2.50. In contrast, the FAIRTRADE premium paid to the West African cooperatives from the same bar of chocolate only amounts to 2.5 US cents (see Annexure 1 below). For example, the Dutch FAIRTRADE certifying institution made Eur 417,681 (around US$ 520,000) from licence fees (paid to them by chocolate companies for the right to use the FAIRTRADE logo) in 2009, whilst less than half of that amount ( Eur 175,000 or US$ 218,750) was paid to cocoa-producing FAIRTRADE cooperatives in that year. 

    Download het rapport (PDF)

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