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As Fair Trade ( English fair trade ) is a controlled trade designated in which the producers for their products a minimum price obtained, which is determined by a Fair Trade Organization. This is intended to enable producers to earn a higher and more reliable income than in conventional trade, even at lower market prices. The amount of a fair price has been a topic of business ethics that has been discussed for millennia . In addition, with this form of trade, attempts are also made to build long-term “partnership” relationships between traders and producers. International environmental and social standards as well as those prescribed by the organizations should also be complied with in production.

Idealized representation of certified producers of fairly traded quinoa in Ecuador

The very heterogeneous fair trade movement mainly focuses on goods that are exported from developing countries to industrialized countries. Fair trade encompasses agricultural products as well as products from traditional handicrafts and industry and is increasingly expanding into new areas such as tourism under the name "fair travel". Fairly traded products are offered in natural food and world shops as well as in supermarkets and in restaurants.

According to the umbrella organization Fairtrade International , over 1.5 million farmers took part in fair trade programs in 2015.


Fairly traded products with the Transfair seal

The informal working group FINE - consisting of the international umbrella and specialist organizations of fair trade FLO , IFAT , News! and EFTA - agreed in 2001 on the following definition of fair trade:

Fair trade is a trading partnership that is based on dialogue, transparency and respect and that strives for more justice in international trade. Through better trading conditions and the safeguarding of social rights for disadvantaged producers and workers - especially in the countries of the south - fair trade makes a contribution to sustainable development. Fair trade organizations (supported by consumers) are actively engaged in assisting manufacturers, raising awareness and fighting for changes in the rules and practices of conventional international trade. The strategic intent of fair trade consists of the following points:

  • To work specifically with manufacturers and workers who have been marginalized to them from a very weak position to safety and self-sufficiency to move
  • Empower manufacturers and workers as stakeholders within their own organizations
  • To actively seek to play a bigger role in the global arena in order to achieve greater justice in international trade.

Specifically, fair trade advocates generally support the following principles:

  • Creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers: Fair trade is a strategy to alleviate poverty and promote sustainable development . It is intended to create opportunities for manufacturers who have been economically disadvantaged or marginalized by the existing trading system.
  • Payment of a fair price: The price should be set in a dialogue between the trading partners and, regardless of the fluctuations in world market prices, always cover production costs, secure the livelihood of producers and enable socially just and environmentally compatible production. In addition, a premium is often paid with which the farmers or workers can implement joint projects to improve their situation in the long term. If necessary, pre-financing is granted.
  • Socially acceptable working conditions: The working environment must be safe and healthy. Exploitation, child labor and slave labor are prohibited. There must be freedom of union.
  • Equal rights for women: Women are always appropriately paid for their contribution to the manufacturing process and empowered within their respective organizations.
  • Building capacity and know-how: Fair trade should make producers more independent and enable them to assert themselves in the market.
  • Transparency and responsibility: Fair trade means transparent management and commercial relationships in order to deal fairly and respectfully with trading partners.
  • Environmental protection: Organic farming is not compulsory, but is encouraged. Certain particularly environmentally harmful pesticides are prohibited in cultivation.

Fair trade can also be seen as a variant of the trade in branded goods , whereby the added value of the brand is represented by the fact that the additional price paid by the consumer is intended to help economically weaker people. Unlike z. In the case of welfare brands , for example , this aid should not benefit uninvolved third parties, but the producers, so that the relationship between performance and income is preserved.



The first fair trade organizations were the Ten Thousand Villages (formerly Self Help Crafts ), founded in 1946 by North American Mennonites and Brethren in Christ , and the SERRV International project founded in 1949 by the Church of the Brethren . Both organizations emerged in the church environment. Ten Thousand Villages is associated with the Mennonite Central Committee . In the beginning , the products were almost exclusively handicraft , ranging from goods made from jute to so-called embroidery . However, these first activities were often still part of charity projects and did not yet have a world trade dimension. The first fair trade shop was opened in the USA in 1958.

Social Movements (1959 to 1980)

The European fair trade movement was formed in the 1960s. At the time, Fair Trade was often seen as a sign against neo-imperialism : Radical students began to criticize international corporations for the emergence of business models that would severely damage traditions. The worldwide model of the free market economy was increasingly attacked during this time and ideals of fair trade developed, according to which the price is directly linked to the real costs and according to which all manufacturers are entitled to fair and equal access to the markets. The slogan of that time, “Trade not aid” (German: “Trade instead of help”), gained recognition in 1968 when the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) took it over to emphasize the establishment of fair trade relationships with the Developing countries.

The Steun voor Onderontwikkelde Streken Foundation ( SOS , "Support for Underdeveloped Regions") in the Netherlands was founded in 1959 as the first so-called alternative trade organization. It was not aimed at profit, but imported handicrafts from not very wealthy countries in the southern hemisphere. In 1967 this organization started trading products from the so-called Third World . In April 1969, the first world shop opened in the Dutch town of Breukelen , offering products as a retailer that had been manufactured in these "underdeveloped regions". It was run by volunteers and was so successful that dozens of similar stores soon opened in the Benelux , the Federal Republic of Germany and other Western European countries. It is worth noting, however, that the majority of the products that were sold in the world shops at the time continued to come from the handicraft. In 1973 the world's first fair trade coffee was sold in the Netherlands. In the same year, the sale of coffee introduced by SOS also started in Germany - through action 365 . In 1980 the fair trade organization SOS was renamed SOS Wereldhandel .

Products offered in world stores

During the 1960s and 1970s, important parts of this movement worked to find markets for products from those countries which, for political reasons, had been isolated from major world trade programs. For example, thousands of volunteers sold coffee from Angola and Nicaragua in world shops, churches, at home and at stands in public places.

Crafts / Agricultural Products (1980s)

In the early 1980s, the alternative trade organizations took on a major challenge: the "new" thing about fair trade products had been lost more and more, sales figures stagnated and the handicraft products began to look very old-fashioned and no longer modern on the market. As the market for handicraft products continued to decline, fair trade supporters were forced to rethink their business model and find innovative solutions to the ongoing crisis in the industry.

Agricultural goods replaced the dwindling market for handicrafts: They offered a renewable source of income and were easy to market because every single consumer was a potential customer. The first agricultural products to be fair trade were coffee and tea , which were quickly followed by dried fruit , cocoa , sugar , fruit juices , rice , spices and nuts .

In 1983 there were a total of around 2,500 fair trade action groups. In November 1985 there were around 350 world shops, 70 of which were organized in the AG3WL at that time . In 1986 there were around 400 world shops and around 4,000 action groups in Germany. The Third World Partner Ravensburg association was founded in 1988 and is now Germany's third largest importer of fair trade products. In the same year by the Dutch organization Solidaridad the Max Havelaar - label introduced Fair Trade.

In 1989 the International Federation for Alternative Trade (IFAT) was founded as a world association of alternative import organizations, to which around 100 fair trade organizations belonged in 1998, including third world partners Ravensburg, El Puente , GEPA and TEAM in Germany. In 1990 the European Fair Trade Association (EFTA) was founded as an amalgamation of eleven alternative import organizations.

Rise of the fair trade label (first half of the 1990s)

However, fair trade sales only really got going when the first fair trade label initiatives emerged. Fair trade had been buoyed by increasing sales, but it was largely limited to smaller world shops scattered across Europe and, to a lesser extent, North America . Many felt that these shops were far too disconnected from the rhythm and lifestyle of contemporary and developed societies.

The only way to increase sales opportunities was to offer fair trade products in larger department store chains. The problem that arose here was that the distribution of the goods should take place in such a way that customers should unconditionally trust the fair trade products and their respective origins. After long debates within fair trade circles, the Dutch organization Solidaridad introduced the first “Max Havelaar” logo (see above) in 1988 . This independent certificate made it possible to sell the products outside of world shops and thus to get into the mainstream , whereby a broader range of customers could be addressed and the sales figures of fair trade increased significantly. The logos often differed from country to country. While “Max Havelaar” was used in countries such as Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark and France, in other countries such as Germany, Austria and Italy the products were awarded the “Transfair” seal, in Great Britain and Ireland the “ Fairtrade Mark ”.

On June 12, 1992, the organization TransFair International was founded in Göttingen by EFTA and TransFair Germany as the bearer of the European Fair Trade seal . In the early summer of 1993, UNICEF became the 27th Transfair member. The Network of European Worldshops ( NEWS!, "Network of European World Shops") was founded at the European World Shop Congress in Utrecht . In the autumn of 1994, TransFair registered 33 member organizations and the first TransFair-sealed tea came onto the market. In 1994 5,000 tons of green coffee were imported under TransFair terms.

Second half of the 1990s

At the beginning of 1996 chocolate ( cocoa and sugar ) and cocoa products with the TransFair seal were introduced. On May 11, 1996, organized by the Network of European Worldshops , the first European World Shop Day took place under the motto Africa in European World Shops - Breakfast with Africa! instead of.

In April 1997, various international labeling organizations merged to form the umbrella organization Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) based in Bonn. In May 1997, TransFair had 37 member organizations. From June 2nd to 6th 1997 the world summit of the fair coffee trade was held in Tutzing on Lake Starnberg. On June 6, 1997, the first edition of the three-week information service Welt & Handel - information service for fair trade - published by Misereor and BDKJ appeared .

In the summer of 1997, candies with the TransFair seal came onto the market. On July 5, 1997 the urgent campaign for clean clothes started to call for a social fund for Thai sewing workers. She turned to the groups C&A, Karstadt, Metro, Neckermann, Otto and Quelle. In October 1997, GEPA and Otto-Versand started a cooperation. Various GEPA handicraft products were offered on two pages of the Otto catalog “ Schöner schenken ”. From 6th to 12th October 1997 the action More right than cheap - FAIR traded bananas was carried out. Around 130 world shops take part in the BanaFair e. V. part.

On January 17, 1998, the Asia Group of the Global March Against Child Labor in Manila set out for Geneva . On February 25, 1998 the America group started in Sao Paulo and on March 21 the Africa group in Cape Town. On May 9th of the same year, the third European World Shop Day took place under the motto made in dignity - production conditions in the clothing industry. The eighth European World Shop Conference was held in Rome in the same year.

On May 8, 1999 the fourth European World Shop Day was held. This also marked the start of the three-year Land Power Satisfied campaign .

2001 until today

Ten Thousand Villages Store in New Hamburg, Ontario

In 2002, 17 national seal organizations agreed on a common logo that is intended to facilitate the international movement of goods and public relations in the future. The European Commission also announced that it wanted to support fair trade. The World Bank also has a positive attitude towards fair trade. Commenting on a study she published in 2003, fair trade coffee may have benefits.

The year 2004 has been declared a rice year by the United Nations . In 2004 the 45th anniversary of the fair trade organization was celebrated in the Netherlands. Organizations increasingly tried to integrate fair trade with economically weaker partners into the rules of the WTO , but this is controversial. On March 23, 2004, a European conference was held on "Fair trade - a contribution to a sustainable development?" In the EU Parliament in Brussels held the leading role of EURO COOP , NEWS! and EFTA . In 2005 the organization Fair Travel was founded, which transfers the principle to the field of tourism.

2005 has been declared the Year of Microfinance Systems by the United Nations . In 2006 the non-governmental organizationWeed ” started an initiative for fair trade in computers . The "PC global" project aims to uncover problems in computer manufacture.

Fair trade has seen an upswing worldwide over the past ten years. FINE estimated that the sale of fair trade products, both labeled and unlabeled, raised approximately € 260 million. In 2005 the sum was estimated at 660 million euros, which meant an increase of 154% and a steady increase of around 20% per year. Sales in America and the Pacific countries developed in a similar manner; there, sales increased from 291 million in 2003 to 376 million in 2004.

Important fair trade importers today are BanaFair , Weltpartner eG , El Puente and GEPA . Fair-trade products are sold on a large scale by the Body Shop , Hess Natur and Living Crafts , among others .

Since 2013, based on the Fairphone initiative, Fairtrade aspects have played a major role in IT and electronics production for the first time.


Fair trade areas

Traditionally, fair trade deals with agricultural goods that are exported from developing countries to industrialized countries. The FLO certification system now includes coffee, (ice) tea , bananas and other fresh and dried fruit, juices, cocoa and chocolate, (cane) sugar , honey, nuts, vegetable oil, rice, spices, cotton products and wine. In addition, products of traditional handicrafts from fair trade are offered, mainly in world shops. Handcrafted carpets have their own quality seals such as Rugmark , especially since the problem of child labor in this area became known through cases such as Iqbal Masih .

More recently, fair trade has expanded to include industrial products such as clothing and footballs, and there are initiatives that want to expand it to include computers, oil and diamonds ( see also : blood diamonds ). However, this is controversial within the fair trade movement. Fair trade is also increasingly an issue in tourism . In view of falling milk prices in Europe, there are a few approaches to guarantee “fair prices” for European dairy farmers.

Seal of approval and certification

The Fairtrade seal of approval
The FLP seal of approval

Seals of quality or labels make fair trade products recognizable as such for consumers. The largest organization responsible for the certification of products and producers and the independent verification of compliance with the criteria is the international umbrella organization Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International  (FLO). Numerous national fair trade organizations are united in it. The FLO seal of approval for fair trade is the internationally standardized fair trade seal . National label initiatives are Transfair in Germany, Fairtrade Austria in Austria and Max Havelaar in Switzerland.

In addition to these main seals of approval, there are some less common labels that are restricted to specific companies / organizations, to specific countries, regions or products. These include BanaFair e. V. banana, Rugmark rugs from India or the Flower Label that the Flower Label Program is awarded (FLP). The FLP works partly with TransFair in the field of certification of flower farms. Farms that are certified according to the Fairtrade standard can also apply for FLP membership on the basis of this test. This avoids double exams. In contrast to TransFair, the FLP does not control the entire chain of cut flowers, but only the socially and environmentally friendly production. FLP flowers are traded on the international cut flower market according to the supply and demand mechanism. This also gives florists the opportunity to purchase FLP flowers and offer them in their specialist shops. In contrast, bouquets of flowers with the fair trade seal are available in large supermarket chains.

In addition to the general criteria - Compliance with Human Rights and the conventions of the ILO concerning freedom of association , prohibition of child labor and slavery in production, in return pay a fixed "fair" price, which covers the production costs and the existence of the producers ensures - for the individual Product-specific criteria are set, in particular with regard to cultivation and the corresponding ecology. Organic farming is not compulsory for most labels, although certain pesticides are prohibited.

In 2013, 1,210 producer organizations worldwide worked in accordance with fair trade standards.

Fair trade and political content

Parts of the fair trade movement combine actual trade with political content by providing consumers with background information about the situation in the countries of origin of the products and about the global economy. For example, the campaign for Ujamaa coffee processed in Tanzania in Switzerland in the 1970s criticized the “alms mentality” of development aid, and the sales campaigns for jute bags from Bangladesh were also directed against a consumption and throw-away mentality that was considered ecologically questionable.

In some cases, targeted political movements in the countries of origin are supported. The best known were the campaigns for the so-called Nica coffee and Nica bananas, with whose sale the Sandinista in Nicaragua were supported. Today, for example, various initiatives promote the sale of coffee by Zapatista cooperatives in Chiapas (southern Mexico).

Fair trade in the free economy

As long as fair trade takes place without coercive measures, subsidies or customs initiatives, fair trade is fully compatible with the free market economy . Fair trade is subject to the same customs duties and restrictions as any other trade in goods, especially imports from non-EU countries. However, it assumes that customers are willing to accept higher prices.

Like any trading company, fair trade companies have to assert themselves in the often highly competitive market. In Germany, the market share of fair trade coffee was 4.1% in 2017. Contrary to the trend of declining coffee consumption, fair trade is able to hold its own. The sales figures are slowly increasing. In addition to traditional providers such as GEPA , El Puente , WeltPartner eG (formerly dwp Ravensburg) or claro fair trade , supermarkets and retail chains now offer goods with seals of approval for fair trade, in addition to their conventional range.

The Bremen economist Hans-Heinrich Bass expects that the market segment of fair trade goods will continue to grow, since quality seals accepted by the consumer would lead to a self-reinforcing growth process: If more and more providers participate in the growing market segment, the quantity and diversity of the range increase - it träten economies of scale and economies of scope (economies of scale and scope) on. This in turn would mean that more consumers would buy goods from this segment - which in turn would call more suppliers to the scene. The German Society for International Cooperation even speaks of the fact that a "sleeping giant" has now woken up.

After the grocer Lidl had exclusively sold fair trade bananas in 40% of its German branches from autumn 2018, it announced in May 2019 that it would be selling conventionally traded bananas again in the affected branches from summer 2019 after the price difference of 10 to 20 cents per kilogram of the conventionally traded bananas offered by competitors had led to a noticeable decline in sales.

Regionalization of the term

"Fair" label for milk with a national reference

A recent trend is the application to regional products outside the Third World trade. In Central Europe this was used especially in the discussion about the drop in the milk price in order to enable local small farmers to work economically. One organization in this sense was A faire Milch in Austria (2006–2017), or Europe-wide Die faire Milch (from 2010).

Studies on the Effects of Fair Trade

Two analyzes from 2008 and 2009, which evaluated numerous studies on fair trade, come to the conclusion that fair trade makes a significant contribution to development and usually improves the lives of the people and families involved in production. Many studies have shown that fair trade promotes self-confidence, dignity and social capital of farmers, although this is difficult to determine. Most studies suggest that economic conditions are better, although not always clearly enough to meet basic needs. Particular emphasis is placed on greater economic stability and better access to credit. Fair trade correlates significantly with improved health, higher food consumption and more frequent school attendance. It promotes stable, long-lived institutions, improves market access and leads to more diversified production. However, the degree of success often depends on the circumstances. Fair trade with more developed countries hardly brings economic, but rather institutional advantages for producers. The extent to which fair trade leads to environmental improvements has hardly been researched. Fair trade contributed least to the frequently expressed goal of better gender equality. Fair trade alone cannot solve complex problems in marginalized regions, but should be seen as part of a differentiated development strategy. The selection of studies available for such analyzes is, however, assessed as unsatisfactory or not discussed. As an example, four studies are detailed below.

In 2002, Loraine Ronchi of the Poverty Research Unit at the University of Sussex looked at the impact of fair trade on the Coocafe cooperative in Costa Rica . She found that Fair Trade strengthened manufacturers 'organizations and concluded that “Looking back at the coffee crisis of the early 1990s, Fair Trade achieved its goals of improving small manufacturers' revenues and affecting their quality of life as well , positively affecting the welfare of the organizations that represent them at local, national and beyond this level. " .

In 2003, Colorado State University's Fair Trade Research Group conducted seven case studies of coffee makers from Latin America (UCIRI, CEPCO, Majomut, Las Colinas & El Sincuyo La Selva, Tzotzilotic and La Voz) who are committed to fair trade, and ultimately came to the conclusion that Fair Trade "has improved the wellbeing of smaller coffee farmers and their families in a short period of time". In particular, these various case studies found that Fair Trade would have given them greater access to credit. The studies also described that these manufacturers had easier access to training compared to ordinary coffee producers. In addition, families should be more intact and children should have better access to education than children from families that make conventional coffee.

A case study by Nicolas Eberhart (2005) for the French NGO Agronomes et Vétérinaires sans frontières on the producers of fair trade coffee from Bolivia states that fair trade certification had a positive impact on the price of coffee in the Yungas region , of which all coffee producers economically benefited whether or not they were honored. Fair trade is also said to have strengthened the manufacturer organizations and increased their political influence.

In 2007, Sandra Imhof and Andrew Lee carried out a study on the effects of fair trade in Bolivia on behalf of seco (the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs ). The aim of the study was to investigate the impact of fair trade on the poverty reduction of small coffee farmers (both those who produce under Fairtrade conditions and those who produce under conventional conditions) and on conflict prevention. The authors came to the following conclusions: (1) Fair trade can potentially reduce horizontal inequalities and thus could have a positive effect on conflict prevention. (2) Fair trade promotes capacity building, which leads to poverty reduction. (3) If fair trade creates competitive effects in the local market, poverty could also be reduced among conventional producers. (4) By having an impact on the mass market, fair trade may have indirectly reduced poverty. However, the authors emphasize that these four hypotheses would have to be tested further in other market and conflict situations in order to be able to make more precise statements about the effects of fair trade.

Fairtrade made it possible for Nicaraguan farmers to switch their production to organic coffee, which led to a higher price but lower income for the farmers due to higher costs and lower yields.

Political stance on fair trade

European politics

In June 2006, the MEP who put Greens , Frithjof Schmidt , the Development Committee's report Fair trade and development.

The report highlights that the sales increases in fair trade largely with a seal of approval have been met labeled products and that have been developed in most European countries initiatives on labeling. The report was followed by a resolution urging the European Commission to issue a Fair Trade Recommendation, calling on it to promote Fair Trade. The report also sets out a number of minimum criteria that a product should meet in order to be fair trade.

The resolution was adopted on July 6, 2006.

World bank

The World Bank has a positive attitude towards fair trade. According to their study on sustainable coffee markets from 2003, sustainably produced coffee (both from fair trade and organic agriculture ) “can bring benefits such as improved use of natural resources; fewer agricultural chemicals are required in manufacturing, which reduces costs and health risks. In addition, the use of rural labor is increasing, leaving more work for those in dire need ”.


Wydick criticized:

  • The lower share of the farmers in the value added the functioning of the fair trade in general
  • Certification is extremely expensive for smallholders
  • The production editions reduced the yield
  • The poorest of the farmers are not being helped at all
  • The poorest countries are the least involved
  • The social investments of the organizations are not transparent
  • Direct trade with producers is more effective and more sustainable
  • The main cause of poverty is the drop in prices due to overproduction , higher yields through Fairtrade further stimulate production
  • The cause of poverty in the Third World is not the payment of the farmers, but the political and social conditions in these countries
  • Among the 16 best methods of poverty reduction, fair trade is the penultimate in terms of cost efficiency.

Unclear definition

Basically, the lack of a clear definition of fair trade is criticized. The number of various definitions of “fair trade” is almost as large as the number of different “fair trade” quality seals that are applied to a wide variety of products. In addition, there is no legally binding standard; every organization defines its own criteria. Depending on the seal, there are different catalogs of criteria, inspection procedures and cycles. “Fair trade” is therefore primarily a matter of definition.

A comparison of selected “fair trade” systems

Lack of price transparency

One point of criticism of fair trade is the lack of transparency in the price composition of fair trade products: it is often difficult for the consumer to understand exactly who in the value chain receives what share of the additional prices . The price difference between fairly traded products compared to conventionally traded products is significantly higher than the additional amount that the producers receive - the remaining part is partly skimmed off by retailers, partly explained by the administrative and control costs of the organizations, which is difficult to verify from the outside. In this regard, attention was drawn to the high profit margins in trading. Most of the additional price for Fairtrade products compared to comparable products that do not come from fair trade benefits the producers, while other links in the value chain can also benefit significantly. According to research by economist Bruce Wydick, the average US coffee consumer spent 50 cents more on a cup of Fairtrade coffee. "But even in the best-case scenario for Fairtrade, with low world market prices, the coffee farmer received just a third of a cent."

The structure of the value chains from south to north is hardly affected. The label “from fair trade” is above all an instrument of price differentiation , so that the price does not reflect the marginal costs and the additional profit for the producers. Costa Coffee offered a cup of fair trade coffee for 10  pence more expensive than conventionally traded coffee. This would suggest to the customer that the price difference would benefit the coffee farmers, while the actual additional income is only half a penny per cup. This is mainly due to the low proportion of coffee beans in the cost of a cup of coffee. Nine and a half pence a cup may have gone to Costa Coffee. After approaching Costa Coffee, the company began offering fair trade coffee at no extra charge in late 2004.

Certification Costs and Impact on Non-Fair Trade

It is criticized that producers sometimes have to pay high prices to receive the seal of approval; the fragmentation of the market would be promoted, which could lead to a fall in the wage level in the non-fair trade chain.

The social effect is also said to be non-existent in comparison with other companies or in itself inefficient.

According to Colleen Haight of San Jose State University, another system error is that Fairtrade does not buy all of the goods from a farmer, so that the latter is tempted to sell the better goods freely and to only sell the quoted goods of inferior quality to Fairtrade.

Abolition of market mechanisms

From an economic point of view, it is criticized that the price is no longer completely controlled by pricing mechanisms, but is partially set by organizations.

Arbitrariness, corruption and inefficiency

Since a fair price cannot be determined objectively, the price set is arbitrary. Furthermore, there is a risk of corruption and inefficiency because the success of the producers no longer depends on their productivity , but on membership in a fair trade certified organization.

Incentive to overproduce

Particularly in connection with the temporary drop in coffee prices , mainly caused by overproduction ( coffee crisis ), the criticism has been expressed on various occasions that the higher prices guaranteed by fair trade encourage farmers to increase their production volume and thus increase the problem of overproduction. Coffee farmers are mainly poor because too much coffee is produced, which should not be further encouraged by fair trade prices.

Hostility to innovation

According to Paul Collier, fair trade is an instrument of charity that gives farmers an incentive to continue their poverty-promoting production. The movement reflects an anti-modern idyll , since the farms have to be small and family-run and modern agricultural technologies such as mechanization , economies of scale , pesticides and genetic engineering are neglected and even actively avoided.

On the other hand, the industrialization of agriculture is also viewed critically in Europe and the importance of small and family-run farms is emphasized for the self-determination of families and the preservation of cultural traditions and nature. The President of the German Farmers' Association (DBV) , Joachim Rukwied, stated at the symposium of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture on perspectives for family farms: "The farming entrepreneurial families are one of the supporting pillars for the economic, social and cultural development of rural areas".

Lack of incentives to improve quality

The guarantee of minimum purchase prices is an incentive for the coffee farmers to have only those beans certified as Fairtrade that cannot be sold on the world market above the Fairtrade price due to poor quality. A surcharge for particularly high-quality beans is not paid, so these are preferably sold without certification.

Fair trade vs. Free trade

The term “fair trade” is also criticized as such. He was "a certain potential for forming (or reinforcing) prejudice ... not to be denied"; because this designation implies that any other trade is unfair, both in foreign and domestic trade. In this way, not only would all manufacturers who are not Fairtrade certified be disadvantaged and damaged, but also, and above all, any retailer who does not sell Fairtrade articles would be discriminated against. The (agricultural) markets of the industrialized countries, which are currently protected from competition by high tariff barriers, should, in the opinion of some, be better opened to all producers from developing countries, instead of granting a few producers privileged access through instruments such as fair trade. There are also voices who view the environmental and social standards required by fair trade as discrimination against developing countries in trade and as protectionism in disguise .

A criticism voiced by some proponents of fair trade - especially representatives of "alternative trade" - is that fair trade runs the risk of straying from its original goals and ideals due to its increasing focus on mass markets and cooperation with large corporations. Within the fair trade movement there are different views as to whether fair trade should aim for the highest possible market shares and sales or be limited to a small but effective market niche. The international clean clothes campaign, for example, does not rely on labeling individual products with seals of approval, but rather aims to ensure that fair working conditions are observed in the entire clothing industry.

Fair trade vs. ecology

In her book Fairarscht, the author Sina Trinkwalder gave an example of a questionably produced “fair” product, a mint tea that the German Development Minister drank at a lecture in order to name it a successful fair trade product. This mint tea comes from a "fair" company in Egypt , which is supposed to ensure good working conditions. The author criticizes the cultivation in Egypt, as peppermint "grows on every corner" in Germany and other German-speaking countries. In addition, large amounts of water are required for cultivation in Egypt, the cultivation conditions there are also questionable because the peppermint has to be imported, whereby the transport releases further greenhouse gases .

See also


  • Michael von Hauff, Katja Claus: Fair Trade - A concept of sustainable trade. UVK Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-8252-3671-7 .
  • Christine Mader: Fair Trade - Consideration of an Alternative Trade Model . Bremen 2011
  • Martina Hahn, Frank Herrmann: Fair shopping - but how? The guide to fair trade, fashion, money, travel, electronics and enjoyment. , 5th edition, Brandes & Apsel, Frankfurt am Main 2015, ISBN 978-3-86099-610-2 .
  • Markus Raschke: Fair trade. Commitment to a just global economy. Matthias-Grünewald-Verlag, Ostfildern 2009, ISBN 978-3-7867-2764-4 ( table of contents ).
  • Konrad J. Kuhn: Fair Trade and Cold War. Self-perception and positioning of the fair trade movement in Switzerland 1973–1990. Edition Soziothek, Bern 2005, ISBN 3-03796-085-X .
  • Monitoring report , Fairtrade International (scope and impact; figures, facts, studies) - 4th edition 2012, PDF, 112 pages.
  • Ndongo S. Sylla: The Fair Trade Scandal - Marketing Poverty To Benefit The Rich.
  • Sina Trinkwalder : Fairarscht - How business and commerce sell customers for stupid. Knaur, 2016, ISBN 978-3-426-78794-6 .

Web links

Commons : Fair trade  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. More than just a fair price. In: FairTrade.de , accessed on December 6, 2011.
  2. ^ FLO International. In: fairtrade.net , accessed on May 16, 2015 (English).
  3. Darryl Reed, JJ McMurtry (Ed.): Co-operatives in a Global Economy: The Challenges of Co-operation Across Borders . Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008, ISBN 978-1-4438-0255-0 (English, limited preview in Google Book Search [accessed March 22, 2019]).
  4. Where did it all begin? In: wfto.com. World Fair Trade Organization, July 25, 2011, archived from the original on October 22, 2014 ; accessed on February 27, 2019 (English).
  5. ^ The Fair Trade Story. (PDF; 629 KB) In: oikos-international.org. 2005, accessed November 28, 2018 .
  6. 60 years of Fair Trade: A brief history of the Fair Trade movement. In: wfto.com. Retrieved November 29, 2018 .
  7. ^ A b The State Of Sustainable Coffee - Ground-breaking study takes in-depth look at trends in coffee market. In: web.worldbank.org. World Bank , October 14, 2003, accessed November 15, 2019 .
  8. Recent Posts. ( Memento of August 4, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) In: fairoil.org , accessed on June 29, 2016.
  9. Standards . In: fairtrade.net , accessed on October 8, 2013.
  10. ^ Keyword "Fair Trade", Landshuter Zeitung, January 12, 2015.
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