Fair trade organisations and retailers are enraged by a report from the Adam Smith Institute that claimed fair trade was doomed to failure and offered “cures that are worse than the disease” because it ignored market realities.
The report, written by Brink Lindsey - a fellow from the American libertarian group Cato Institute - said: “Sympathy for their coffee producers’ suffering and a heartfelt desire to relieve it are commendable, but good intentions aren’t enough. The fair trade campaign is one such well-meaning dead end.”
Fairtrade Foundation’s deputy director, Ian Bretman, described the report as “shabby” and said it was shameful to criticise
retailers and consumers who were trying to make a difference at a time when the Fairtrade Foundation was celebrating its 10th anniversary. “It’s a dogmatic approach to free market economics,” said Bretman.
The ASI report also said the quality of fair trade coffee did not justify its higher price and it suggested coffee farmers should grow high-value coffee products, boost domestic demand and be allowed to diversify into other rich crops by abolishing trade barriers and subsidies in Western countries.
Bretman agreed with the last point. “We agree markets need to be opened up and we’ve been campaigning for change from the WTO and CAP. ”
David Croft, head of the Co-op’s own label Fair Trade brand said: “Most people can’t or won’t get involved in lobbying global companies and governments. Whereas switching to Fairtrade provides a simple means to make a real difference.”
Sylvie Barr, head of marketing at Fairtrade company Cafédirect, said Fairtrade was not just about short-term higher prices but also long-term relationships.
Sean McAllister