AFTER 40 years in Europe, fair trade, a social movement that adopts a “people first” approach to trade, recently launched in the Philippines.
Formally introduced last Oct. 30 at the City Sports Club, the Fair Trade Marketing Organization of the Philippines said it intends to drive market presence and increase sales of fair trade products in the country and in Southeast Asia, being the first Southeast Asian presence authorized and supported by Fair Trade International in Germany.
At present, fair trade is an “unfamiliar” business concept in the Philippines, according to Fair Trade Philippines president Alejandro Florian Alcantara. Fewer than 100 out of 30,000 fair trade products globally are sold in the Philippines. This accounts for only 0.003 percent of the global fair trade, he said.
“The perceived size of the potential domestic market shows there exists a huge market opportunity for fair trade products. However, it is untapped today because of zero awareness,” Alcantara said.
Fair Trade Philippines said it will link small farming organizations to traders and consumers. By being certified as fair trade, producers will receive a “fair trade premium” or additional funds that producers can use for community or business development. To put it simply, fair trade gives the producers a fair price for their work.
According to Fair Trade International new markets manager Andrea Richert, fair trade products are pricier than non-fair trade products because of that factor.
In 2010, over 51.5 million Euros of fair trade premiums went directly to producers. In addition, the “fair trade minimum price,” which aims to cover the cost of sustainable production, helps safeguard producers if world market prices fall, Alcantara said.
In the Philippines, there are currently three fair trade small producer organizations, namely, the Dama Farm Workers Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association that produces cane sugar, Nakalang Padilla Workers Association that also grows cane sugar, and the Fair Trade Farmers Credit Cooperative that produces oil seed and coconut. All of these products are for export.
Fair Trade Philippines has set a goal of growing the number of producer organizations to 33 by 2020.
Some supermarkets in the country like Rustans, SM and Metro already sell some imported fair trade products, said Alcantara. Specialty stores like Healthy Options and Duty Free shops are also doing the same.
A few familiar names
Global accounts present in the Philippines that use fair trade products include Starbucks for their coffee and Marks and Spencer for their tea, coffee, wine, and chocolates.
To identify fair trade products, look for the fair trade certification marks. This assures consumers that the product they are buying meets fair trade’s social, economic, and environmental standards.
Also in 2020, Alcantara said, Fair Trade Philippines targets to grow the number of fair trade products sold in the country from fewer than 100 products now to 500 products.
“Fair Trade Philippines’s greatest challenge is the consumers’ lack of awareness and understanding of the social impact of the concept of fair trade in the lives of our small farmers and workers,” said Alcantara.
In order to improve awareness in the country, the official said that Fair Trade Philippines will form provincial chapters composed of farmers’ organizations, food manufacturers or food processors, academe, local chambers, church organizations, and government agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Agriculture.
Alcantara said there will be local trade shows in support of fair trade products.
By buying fair trade products, officials believe, consumers will directly contribute to global change and support producers in improving their lives.