Non Certified But Fairly Traded?

Are there fairly traded products that don't carry a third party certification mark?  Yes there are.  It happens for several reasons.

If a country has good labor laws that protect laborers  it is believed those  laws are sufficient protection for farmers.  Some would argue that there are enough cases of abuse (especially with immigrant workers) that this should be questioned. 

Farm Gate Trade is the term used to describe retailers buying directly from farmers. Those retailers may pay above the going price and perhaps even above fair trade prices.  When everyone in the supply chain is honorable and shares the consumers concerns, this system can be the best system for alleviating poverty.  But unless one personally knows the buyer and the farmer, one is left to trust reputations.  One may feel confident that the farmer is getting a good premium, and that should translate into an absence of abusive child labor.  But how does the consumer know?  I don't include these in my lists.  There are two small producers that I do business with, but I do so in part because of a gut feeling and a leap of faith.  In developing the lists, I can't let my gut favor one Farm Gate Trade enterprise over another.  The lists are limited to nationally and internationally recognized third party certification systems.

"In House" certification is when a company or manufacturer has set standards and does the monitoring itself.   Up until recently corporations could not be a part of the system and they created their own marks to indicate that the farmers had met that corporation's standards. 

Specialty products may earn a farmer high premiums.  In some situations, demand is great and there is access to multiple buyers.  This may be true for some of the highest quality or unusual species of cocoa or coffee beans.  There may be no benefit to the farmer to invest the time and money to meet fair trade requirements.  But again, the average consumer is left to believe the word of the buyer that they are paying a high premium, farmers aren't pressed to use high yield but unsustainable practices, and that laborers are treated fairly.

The bottom line issue is trust.  And ultimately trust is a personal matter.  We trust based on the information we have, gut feelings, and evaluation of risk and consequence. 

Whether a person chooses to trust third party certification systems or individual farm gate businesses may not be as important as the process of asking questions and working toward the goal of creating a system of fair exchange.

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