STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 3, Number 4

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30 STiR tea & coffee industry international By Katrina Ávila Munichiello he promise of fair trade is to improve the lives of the workers who grow the foods and products shoppers use and consume including cocoa, fruits and vegetables, herbs, coffee, tea and even clothing. Fair trade aims to pro- mote environmental improvements, social programs, economic support and a myriad of educational efforts. As consumer awareness grows, fair trade certification has also become an effective marketing tool. The label can add dollars per pound of coffee on the grocery store shelf and a premium at the register in tea shops. But is fair trade meeting its mission and achieving its true potential in the coffee and tea industry? Does fair trade certification improve the lives of workers or does the ever pervasive label give an illusion of progress that does not yet exist? University research report raises serious questions Shockwaves rippled through the tea and coffee industries as a new report was released by the Fair Trade, Employment, and Poverty Reduction Project, stating that there was no demonstrable positive impact for workers in regions with fair trade certified producers. The four-year study, financed by the UK Department for International De- velopment and conducted by researchers based at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, involved more than 1,000 days of field research and survey data on 1,700 respondents in the tea, coffee, and flower-growing industries of rural Uganda and Ethiopia. The report, titled "Fairtrade, Employment, and Poverty Reduction in Ethiopia and Uganda," looked at several factors contributing to poor working conditions including: wage differences, job duration and sexual harassment. Researchers assessed that work- ers in areas of fair trade certified producers received lower pay and fewer hours of em- ployment than sites without fair trade certification. Occasionally workers in fair trade regions did receive more in wages, but their overall conditions were inferior, lacking access to medical care, clean bathroom facilities, and food support. Researchers raised concerns that the fair trade premium-funded programs may not reach the most at need — the poorest and most rural workers. Research cited a coop- The Quest(ion) of Fair Trade: Improving the Lives of Workers or Giving the Illusion of Change? T K

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