Sales of Fairtrade-certified products from Uganda and Ethiopia are not benefiting poor farmworkers as profits fail to trickle down to much of the workforce, says a groundbreaking study.
The Fairtrade Foundation is committed to "better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world". But a UK government-sponsored study, which investigated the production of flowers, coffee and tea in Ethiopia and Uganda, found that "where Fairtrade flowers were grown, and where there were farmers' groups selling coffee and tea into Fairtrade certified markets, wages were very low".
Christopher Cramer, an economics professor at Soas, University of London and one of the report's authors, said: "Wages in other comparable areas and among comparable employers producing the same crops but where there was no Fairtrade certification were usually higher and working conditions better. In our research sites, Fairtrade has not been an effective mechanism for improving the lives of wage workers, the poorest rural people."
Fairtrade disagrees (perhaps not surprisingly), stating that the study got its statistics all wrong, e.g.
In several places [the study] compares wages and working conditions of workers in areas where small-scale Fairtrade-certified tea and coffee farmers were present with those on large-scale plantations in the same regions.
So, my simple question is: next time I by a bunch of Fairtrade bananas in my local store, can I rest assured that I've made life better for a bunch of farmers, or not?