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Working Together Pays Off In Beans
Taran Rampersad, 1 May 04

In coffee and cocoa beans, actually.

From Divine chocolate to Café Maraba Bourbon, Fair Trade is making it's mark. And please don't confuse Fair Trade with Free Trade.

Of late, a slew of articles have been referenced out of the Development Gateway, but it's the simplicity of the idea and the fact that it's working which makes it noteworthy. It revolves around people working together, from the producers to the consumers - making a better product together.

The article 'Better than fair' from Developments (The International Development Magazine) shows how Fair Trade has reached what can only be termed maturity:

...Like many socially-minded shoppers of the early 1990s, Hugh Phillips tried very hard to enjoy his first jar of fairly-traded coffee. “I stuck it for six weeks,” he recalls. “But it tasted absolutely awful. Back then I thought fair trade would never be more than a side issue.”

A decade later, the internationally-renowned retail analyst is pleasantly surprised to be eating his words. That early experimental brew, once found mainly in obscure health food emporiums, has morphed into one of the fastest-growing brands on the supermarket shelf. Cafédirect, now the sixth most popular ground coffee in the UK, is going public with a £5 million share option, while sales of fair trade foods ranging from Christmas cake to Colombard wine have more than doubled in the last two years. The biggest names in the high street – from Asda to Starbucks – now stock fair trade options, along with government departments, top hotels and restaurants. What on earth is going on?

“About two years ago something changed,” explains Dr Phillips, a senior research fellow at Bournemouth University, whose independent research into the psychology of shopping involves regular consumer surveys. “People we spoke to were suddenly demanding not only that their food was organic and additive-free, but also fairly traded. It wasn’t only coming from the people you’d expect – the sun-dried tomato eaters, the CND supporters, the religious people – it was mainstream. That’s when I realized it was going to take off.”...

Obviously it's working. In another article, 'Raising The Bar', chocolate is the focus. Divine chocolate.

In a world where people have become concerned about sweatshops, perhaps Fair Trade has a few lessons for people in both Developing Nations and Developed Nations.

What else could it be applied to? We see how it has been applied successfully to crops which are manufactured into consumables, but does it stop there? With the core concept of a Cooperative, much can be done not only to create a superior product - but also to increase the quality of lives of the people who produce these products - an inherent meritocracy.

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