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DEVELOPMENT-WORLD: What Is So Fair About Fair Trade?
PARIS, Sep 15 (IPS) - Fair trade is held up as promoting fair prices for producers and guaranteeing social and environmental standards. These ideas are neither new nor controversial. But the recent boom in fair trade has drawn attention as standards and models multiply while authentication mechanisms lag behind.

Artisans du Monde (``Artisans of the World''), a federation of 170 French fair trade outlets, estimates that Europe accounts for 60 percent of the fair trade market. In 2000, it reckons, one in 10 French consumers had heard of fair or equitable trade.

In 2007 the figure jumped to eight out of 10. In 2006, 42 percent of French consumers in fact purchased a fair trade product.

According to the French Platform for Fair Trade (Plate-Forme pour le Commerce Équitable, or PFCE), a collective of 39 organisations, the sector's European turnover amounted to 1.25 billion euros in 2006, and fair trade sales have jumped by 20 percent every year since 2000.

At the other end of the chain, Artisans du Monde estimates that fair trade benefits 1.5 million small producers, the vast majority of whom are from developing countries. But what makes fair trade so fair to them?

Most fair trade organisations, whether buyers, importers, distributors or certifiers, operate under a self-imposed charter. Respecting a number of criteria will earn producers the right to use a network's label and grant their product access to a fair trade distributor's shelves.

But charters are as diverse as operators. Umbrella organisations such as the International Fair Trade Association, which claims 300 members, have a hard time unifying operational standards.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:43:35 PM EST
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