Consulting the World on Changing Standards

08 October 2010

How can Fairtrade bring more producers and traders into the Fairtrade System? What can be done to enable development and empowerment of farmers and workers in developing countries?

As Fairtrade continues to expand, FLO is looking to answer these questions and more by creating a New Standards Framework, a major revision to make Fairtrade standards more efficient and effective for producers. In July, FLO held workshops on the new framework in Nairobi, Kenya; Lima, Peru; and Ayothaya, Thailand, where representatives from 128 producer organizations spanning 42 countries voiced their opinions and concerns. Traders and Labelling Initiatives gathered in Brussels to share their views.

Now roughly halfway through the year-long project, FLO is processing the input gathered during the three-month consultation process.

“This is an impulse for change and we as producers have our opinions toward the standards. Of course it would be easy to sit in your country and wait for the standards that we have to comply with. But that’s not good because it is top down. Now at least FLO has come to the producer level to listen to our views and opinions,” said Anna Mlay, from the Karagwe District Cooperative Union Tanzania (KDCU), a coffee cooperative.

Bharath Mandanna is the Vice President of The Bombay Burmah Trading Company, which owns a Fairtrade tea plantation in southern India. “We have been in the system for close to 15 years. I think it’s very important to keep all stakeholders in the process because it’s only through them that the Fairtrade system can become more credible.”

Besides the work on the standards, the Strategy and Policy Unit from FLO gathered feedback from producers on a number of important issues, such as climate change and the environment, producer empowerment, economic mechanisms, and various producer organizational structures.

“One of the great worries is the environment, this should be one of the focuses; the other is empowerment of small producers, and no less important is the traceability of the product that arrives at the consumer who pays for the product,” said Sonia Murillo of Coopecañera, which represents 250 small producers of sugar cane in Costa Rica.

“Equilibrium between all of these aspects should be the basis of all proposals in the Fairtrade system. But you cannot lose sight of the fact that all of these things are implemented in very different spaces; in organizations, regions and more so on different continents. Respect for this diversity should remain the fundamental basis of the Fairtrade system.”

All information gathered at the meetings will be reviewed and published on the FLO website. Final proposals for the New Standards Framework incorporating the feedback are expected to be completed in November. Information gathered by the Strategy and Policy Unit will be used to create future standards and policies that are infused with the producer perspective.

“Thanks to the enormous engagement of the producers the consultation went very well,” adds Louise Luttikholt, Director Strategy and Policy. “The subjects, whether standards, support or strategic, touched upon the daily realties of the producers and they were eager to tell their stories and give their perspectives.”

For more information on the New Standards Framework, click here.

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