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Q: What is Fair Trade?
AP: Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is based on a partnership between producers in the developing (Third World) countries  and consumers in the developed countries. Fairtrade offers producers a better deal and improved terms of trade. This allows them the opportunity to improve their lives and plan for their future.
Q: Who benefits from Fairtrade?
AP: The Fairtrade system provides tangible benefits to small-scale farmers and workers, consumers and the environment.The small scale producers benefit by:
  • Increased power/ improved role in the trade of their produce
  • Improved access to low or no-interest loans
  • Technical assistance for building infrastructure to improve production
  • Communications systems, and collectively-owned transport and processing equipment
  • Better health care and education
  • Technical training and skill diversification for cooperative members and their families
Q: In practical terms what does Fairtrade mean for the workers in the tea industry?
AP: For tea gardens, Fairtrade means prices that cover the costs of sustainable production, an additional Fairtrade premium, advance credit, longer term trade relationships, and decent working conditions for hired labour?
Q: What about Fairtrade prices?
AP: The minimum price paid to Fairtrade producers is determined by the Fairtrade standards. It applies to most Fairtrade certified products. But in the case of organic tea there is no minimum price that has been established. It is negotiable between the producer and their western buyers.
Q: Can you tell us about the Fairtrade premium?
AP: In addition to the Fairtrade price, there is an additional sum of money, called the Fairtrade Premium.  This money goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions.
The use of this additional income is decided upon democratically by producers within the farmers’ organization, or by workers on a plantation. The premium is invested in education and healthcare, farm improvements to increase yield and quality, or processing facilities to increase income.  As many projects funded by the premium are communal, the broader community, outside the producer organization often benefits from Fairtrade.

The Fairtrade minimum price and premium information can be found on their website www.fairtrade.net.
Q: What is the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations or FLO
AP: FLO is a non-profit, multi stakeholder body that sets Fairtrade standards and supports producers. FLO is owned by the Labelling Initiatives and the Producer Networks. 

In 1997 Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) was established in Bonn, Germany to unite the labelling initiatives under one umbrella and harmonize worldwide standards and certification.  From their offices, in Bonn, Germany, they:
Q: How old is Fairtrade?
AP: 1988 saw the launch of the first Fairtrade label, Max Havelaar, and the first Fairtrade coffee from Mexico was sold into Dutch supermarkets. In the late 80s and early 90s the Max Havelaar initiative was replicated in several other markets across Europe and North America. In 1997 FLO was set up in Bonn and in 2004 it bifurcated into FLO and FLO-CERT.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about how FLO works?
AP: Fairtrade Labelling Initiatives are national organizations that market Fairtrade in their country. There are currently 19 Fairtrade Labelling Initiatives covering 23 countries in Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. These organizations also licence companies to use the FAIRTRADE Mark on products in their country.
Q: What about Fairtrade certification?
AP: FLO-CERT also helps producers to gain Fairtrade certification and develop market opportunities. They do this through locally based Liaison Officers who provide training, guidance on certification and facilitate relationships with buyers. FLO-CERT inspects and certifies producer organizations and audits traders.
Q: What do Fairtrade standards aim at?
AP: Social development through training opportunities, non discriminatory employment practises, no child labour, no forced labour, access to collective bargaining processes and freedom of association of the workforce, condition of employment exceeding legal minimum requirements, adequate occupational safety and health conditions and sufficient facilities for the workforce to manage the Fairtrade Premium.
Economic development through the payment of a Fairtrade Minimum Price and/or a Fairtrade Premium to the producers. The Fairtrade Minimum Price aims to help producers cover the costs of sustainable production. The Fairtrade Premium is money for the producers or for the workers on a plantation to invest in improving the quality of their lives.
Environmental development through minimized and safe use of agrochemicals, proper and safe management of waste, maintenance of soil fertility and water resources and no use of genetically modified organisms.
Details about Fairtrade standards for small producer organizations, for hired labour, and for contract production can be found on their website www.fairtrade.net.
Q: Supposing a tea garden or a tea company joins Fairtrade and gets certification and all the paper work done. Ultimately how do its workers receive the premiums-- in cash, in credit or in other forms?
AP: The premiums are deposited into a workers’ welfare fund which must be managed by the workers themselves under the supervision of the parent company. The so-called Joint Body, which includes workers and management, is responsible for the management of the Fairtrade Premium in accordance with Fairtrade Standards.  This means no child or forced labour, proper health and safety measures for the workers and the freedom of the workers to form a union to negotiate their working conditions.
Q: Can the company/tea garden utilize the Fairtrade premium for other purposes like building a new factory or packing plant or even buying a new garden?
AP: The purpose of the foreign buyer paying a premium through Fairtrade is defeated if the company wants to utilize it for purposes other than the workers’ welfare. Barring a few exceptions, the tea industry has not done much for its workers and the improvement of their living conditions after Independence. Indeed the general line of thought is that workers’ welfare is a sham and that they are already getting a lot from their employers, so why bother with them. Well! A company with such thinking will not be accepted by Fairtrade in the first place

However, if small growers join Fairtrade, they can utilize the premium for buying new processing machinery and upgrading their gardens under the supervision of Fairtrade representatives in India.
Q: Which Indian tea gardens or companies have joined Fairtrade?
AP: Makaibari, Ambootia, Chamong, Goomtee, Monteviot, Pussimbing, Samabeong, Selim Hill, Selimbong, and Apeejay Tea in Darjeeling  are Fairtrade certified; so are Chamraj, Thiashola and McLeod Russell in the Nilgiris and POABS in Kerala. There are a few more Fairtrade certified gardens and as word spreads more will want to join this movement.
Q: Have you visited any of these gardens? What were your observations?
AP: I have visited Makaibari several times and observed their participatory management, the improvements in housing, sanitation and education all made possible by the Fairtrade premiums. The workers have not been “spoilt” by improvements in their living conditions but have become more productive and cooperative as a result. My visit to the Chamaraj gardens in the Nilgiris and POABS in Kerala showed me a similar pattern of improvement in the workers’ housing , education and healthcare.
Q: Can the small growers of Assam and Bengal or of South India join Fairtrade?
AP: They certainly can through their small growers’ organizations or consortiums.
Q: Is it necessary to convert to organic tea production before joining Fairtrade to receive its benefits?
AP: Not necessarily. Converting to organic production and joining Fairtrade can proceed simultaneously. Conventional orthodox teas can also be certified under Fairtrade. The Fairtrade liaison officers are in a better position to answer this question than I am.
Q: Will Fairtrade help producers find foreign buyers?
AP: That is a tricky question. As things stand now, Fairtrade  officers are giving preference to producers who have western buyers lined up.  India is a big country with innumerable producers and trying to find foreign buyers for all of them is not feasible in practical terms with their skeleton staff in India. The situation may improve in the near future as Fairtrade operations in India are stepped up. FLO-CERT advises producers to undertake a cost benefit analysis before applying for Fairtrade certification. This will save them disappointment and heartache later on.
Q: What products does Fairtrade cover in south Asia?
AP: Tea, coffee, rice, pepper, vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, almonds, apricot seeds, table grapes, mango pulp, apples, pineapples and many others. An exhaustive list can be found on their website www.fairtrade.net.
Q:Who is the Fairtrade liaison officer for India?
AP: There are three Fairtrade liaison officers for India. Sureel Singh is dealing with the producers of east India, Ganapathy Raju with the producers of south India and Anoop Singh with the producers of north and central India as well as Nepal and Bhutan. The FLO-CERT registered office is in Bangalore. Their contact details are as follows:
Sureel Singh
Liaison Officer, East India
12 Second Floor I Ashiana Greens,
Indirapuram, Ghaziabad 201010
Uttar Pradesh
Ph: (011)22248827
Mob: 09818101690
E-mail: s.singh@fairtrade.net

Ganapathy Raju
Liaison Officer, South India
Mob: 09449817553
E-mail: g.raju@fairtrade.net

Anoop Kumar Singh
Liaison Officer, north and central India, Nepal & Bhutan
Mob: 09899779666
E-mail: a.singh@fairtrade.net
Further information about Fairtrade and FLO-CERT both overseas and in south Asia can be obtained from their websites: www.faitrade.net, www.flo-cert.net, www.fairtrade.org.uk and www.fairtradeforum.org