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Buy Fair Trade Certified fruit

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When you buy Fair Trade Certified fruit you promote the economic welfare of small growers and farm workers around the world, as well as eco-friendly farming methods.

Find it! Fair trade retailers

Although the US market for Fair Trade Certified fruit⎯bananas, mangoes, grapes, and pineapple⎯is still small, more and more specialty grocers, food co-ops, natural food markets, and some larger grocers are carrying this produce ripe with socio-economic and environmental significance. TransFair USA provides a list of retailers, organized by state. Foodies across the pond have an easier time throwing together a more bountiful socially-responsible fruit salad than Americans; in the United Kingdom, in addition to the offerings available in the US, you can also pick up Fair Trade Certified apples, avocados, citrus fruits, coconuts, lychees, pears, and plums.

Before you buy

  • Like other fruit, Fair Trade Certified fruits are available when seasonal. Check availability on TransFair's site.
  • Fair trade certification doesn't guarantee your juicy mango is also organic, although there's a chance it may be. If unsure, ask your grocer. See Fair Trade Certified versus organic fruit below.
  • If you're looking for fair trade mesclun mix to complement that fairly traded pineapple you picked up this morning, you're out of luck. Fair trade certification doesn't currently cover vegetables.
  • You want to be sure your fruits and veggies are as clean as possible, right? Scrubbing and rinsing with water] or a natural produce wash is recommended. This is especially true for produce that's waxed or likely to contain high levels of pesticide residues. Peeling produce, when applicable, is also an effective way to avoid residual residues.

Buying Fair Trade Certified fruit helps you go green because…

  • While fair trade is first and foremost a movement to advance trade and labor conditions in countries that provide a bulk of the world's fruit supply, it's also a movement that benefits the environment. Fair Trade Certified growers practice eco-responsibility in their farming methods and are encouraged to gain organic certification.

The fair trade movement fosters economically stable relationships between North American (and European) consumers and farmers in Asian, Latin American, and African countries. At the same time, it also promotes safe, humane labor conditions.[1] Fair trade ensures that farmers make a living wage from their crops-enough to meet basic production costs, feed their families, practice sustainable farming methods, and invest in raising the quality of life on their plantations.[2]

Fair trade is rooted in seven principles established by the Fair Trade Federation: fair wages, participatory workplaces, environmental sustainability, financial and technical support, respect for cultural identity, public accountability, and consumer education.[3]

Producers of Fair Trade Certified fruit, whether on a large plantation or small family farm, must abide by the following protocol:

  • Agro-chemicals must be used and handled in agreement with international guidelines.
  • All equipment, machinery, and workplaces must be safe and cannot pose health risks.
  • Wages are required to meet or surpass the national minimum wage or local wage, whichever is higher.
  • Labor abuse, including child labor, is not permitted.
  • Environmentally-sensitive growing practices must be followed. This includes establishing buffer zones between crops and natural habitats. Producers must also promote the use of non-chemical pesticides and fertilizers.[2]

Following in the popular footsteps of fair trade coffee, Fair Trade Certified fruit has been available to American consumers since 2004. In Europe, fair trade bananas have been available since the mid 1990s with sales rising 50 percent annually.[4] In fact, fair trade bananas now represent 25 percent of the total banana market in Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

In the US, however, where bananas are a consumer favorite⎯eaten by an estimated 96 percent of Americans⎯demand for fair trade bananas and other fruit hasn't taken off as dramatically. The reason may be that fair trade produce is still mostly sold in food co-ops and natural grocers in the US rather than in large supermarkets as it is in Europe.[5] In 2002, 40,000 tons of fair trade bananas were sold worldwide.[2]

Fair trade certification is not limited to fruit and coffee. It also extends to tea, cocoa, rice, sugar, and other agricultural items. Although many handicrafts and clothing items are available and labeled as fair trade they have not been officially certified by TransFair USA.[6]

Fair Trade Certified versus organic fruit

While Fair Trade Certified fruits are often grown organically via ecologically sustainable methods, the actual designation signifies only how the banana, for example, was traded, not how it was grown. When a banana is organic, it will display a "Certified Organic" sticker, have a special PLU code (price lookup code), or will be distinguishable from conventional produce in another way. "Certified Organic" designation means that the banana has been grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers (among other things) under criteria established by The United States Department of Agriculture or official, third-party organic certification agencies such as Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA International) and Quality Assurance International (QAI) that are required to use USDA standards as a minimum.[7]In the United States, Fair Trade Certified fruit is marketed under strict guidelines set forth by TransFair USA, a nonprofit organization that monitors fair trade practices in developing agricultural communities under the umbrella association Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO).

A high percentage of Fair Trade Certified fruit is also organic, although it's not required to be.[8] However, in accordance with fair trade standards, growers must consider environmental stewardship as an integral part of land management. This includes respecting virgin forests and water resources, as well as controlling soil erosion. Fair trade standards encourage but don’t require that growers curtail their reliance on fertilizers and pesticides (some harmful pesticides are banned outright) and move toward organic farming techniques and eventual organic certification.[2] When fruit is both Fair Trade and organic, labels will be separate.

Controversies

In June of 2007, Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom requested that the government research the possibility of branding fair trade products such as coffee and fruit with a label that displays how much each farmer or worker was paid. This, the MPs suggested, will help consumers determine whether or not producers are subject to exploitation.[9]

Fair Trade Certified products (coffee in particular) have come under fire from economists who claim that the low price of coffee is due to overproduction and that the appeal of fair trade premiums is, in turn, triggering more and more coffee production when farmers should be switching to other crops. As a result, critics argue, the price of non-fair trade coffee is dropping and non-fair trade farmers are sinking deeper into poverty. Another objection to fair trade is that it's ineffective in relaying funds to poor producers. In addition to the higher base price of Fair Trade Certified products, retailers tack on additional mark-ups, which lead consumers to believe that the extra premiums they're paying for go directly to the producer. In reality, only a small percentage reaches the producer, reports economist Tim Harford.[10]

Some also charge that retailers use Fair Trade Certified products to target consumers for whom price is no object, regardless of whether the product in question carries environmental and/or economic benefits.[10]

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