A fair(trade) Christmas

Campaigning for change article written on the 13 Dec 2011

Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui/OxfamAUS

It’s that time of the year, when your shopping list is growing and Christmas ideas are decreasing. The shops are abundant with temptation, but where is all of your spending really going?

A recent survey in 24 different countries showed that an overwhelming number of consumers believe that their shopping choices can make a positive difference for farmers and workers in developing countries. If you purchase items with the Fair Trade logo then these consumers are absolutely right.

Fair Trade works with small-scale farmers to provide long-term security through agreed fair and stable prices. This accounts for over six million people directly benefiting from the international Fair Trade system.

Producers must adhere to certain standards before becoming eligible for the Fair Trade logo. Once the logo has been approved, producers are offered stable prices, even when the world market prices fall. On top of these prices is a premium, which can be used to invest in education, healthcare, farm improvements or processing facilities.

It is clear that more than half of Aussie consumers feel empowered to make a difference through their shopping choices. These consumers also believe that the Fair Trade label makes it easier for them to decide if products are produced ethically. Thus, hopefully making it easier for them to decide which products to purchase over this Christmas season.

By Sarah Norton

Producers can only obtain the label if they stick to certain ethical standards in their production and selling of commodities. They must protect the environment in which they work and live; develop, implement and monitor an operations plan on their farming and technologies; follow national and international standards for chemical handling; not use genetically modified organism products; and monitor the affects of their activities on the environment and make plans to lessen those impacts.

New Zealand and Australian consumers tripled Fair Trade purchases by more than 200 per cent to over AUD$120 million in 2010. It is now the most widely recognised ethical label globally. If you recognise that your Christmas shopping can make a difference to millions of struggling people in developing countries, you should take the opportunity to make a difference worldwide.

By buying Fair Trade products, consumers support producers who are struggling to improve their lives. And what better message to send out into the world these holidays?

Sarah Norton is an intern with Oxfam Australia.

Pic: Senarath Yatigammana, who produces fair trade tea and spices for the Oxfam Shop. Photo by Luis Enrique/OxfamAUS