In 1999 Fair Trade USA (formerly known as TransFair USA) began bringing Certified Fair Trade coffee to the U.S. (this covers roughly 70% of what they currently certify). The emergence of this new certification encouraged the American public to engage in the broader dialogue of “what are the trading conditions for farmers in developing countries?” A largely unasked question at the time which kickstarted an educational process in which Americans began to wonder on the difficult lives of farmers in developing countries. Certified Fair Trade offered a remedy to the malady; by speaking with your dollars and purchasing Certified Fair Trade products you can both empower and give lively-hood to the downtrodden farmers.
This, as I’m sure you can imagine created quite a stir in both the natural food world and conventional supermarkets. Over the years to come, the groovy little Fair Trade logo became synonymous with “doing the right thing for farmers.”
My question to you is, what if this became another one of those fancy Trojan horses in the food world?? Bummer, huh? Well, sadly enough, this seems to be the case. I’ll leave that for you to decide, but first, the facts: Back in January 1st 2011 the “rules” of Certified Fair Trade changed dramatically, and although Fair Trade USA still adamantly markets the small-scale farmers as the “face” of Fair Trade, the reality is that regional trans-national corporations and mega scale plantations ultimately take the helm…so much for the wee guys that we want to love and support. Essentially, in 2011 Fair Trade USA opened up its licensing to large-scale plantations AND began certifying products that contain as little as 10% certified Fair Trade ingredients. What we have now is an idea that seemed to stand resolute for the farmers and growers of the earth, and now this idea is comfortably in bed with mainstream capitalism.
You might be surprised to know that the original, pre-2011, Certified Fair Trade standard was low to begin with, a meagre 25% percent “not 100%” of Fair Trade ingredients was required for a food product to be awarded the label. So the end-game picture is that Fair Trade USA is duping the American public by misrepresentation. What makes this misrepresentation doubly worse is that in doing so both the consumer and the grower are denied the Promise to invest in fair, equitable wages and substainable practices.
This is where the magic of Single Origin comes to life…..
Single Origin food companies honor the pact of transparency and never play-up the integrity of our sourcing. Honesty in labeling is a sadly hard-to-find commodity and we are proud to be a part of one of the few truly transparent food label standards.
The Single Origin Label involves a multitude of standards that must be met before a company can jump into bed with a grower or miner (not literally of course).
A few of those are listed below……
- Direct communication with the producer (farmer/grower/co-op) and knowing all the details about each farm/mine.
- Not dealing with Genetically Modified Farms (Farms that use GMOs). This rule is written in stone. If the farm isn’t Organically certified, we observe their practices to verify their growing practices. Additionally, because organic Organic Certification is costly, we help with agronomy support so the farm can become aligned with the USDA Organic certifying body.
- Ensuring that the agreed trade price for produce from the farm/grower/co-op allows for a value based business for consumers and healthy sustainability for the grower.
- Produce “quality” is paramount. (procurement must meet retailer/consumer standards)
- The Supply chain is 100% transparent in accordance with the 100% Single Origin Verification Project and conceals no element of the supply chain at any time. In essence, Certified food companies can tell you about the entire journey of every single grain.
The points above are a small snapshot of SINGLE ORIGIN VERIFICATION. Built in, you can see that 100% Single Origin requires 100% fair wages and sustainable practices for its growers (much better than 10 or 25%).
So as you can see, the critical difference between Single Origin and Fairtrade, from a business perspective, is that Fairtrade is in essence certifying that wages get paid and ethical trade is upheld (10% of the time) and Single Origin is building a sytem of empowerment for the farmer so they can share and grow the produce in a fully transparent way (100% of the time). Ultimately we create the full Direct Trade opportunity (we call Single Origin) to not only empower the farmers but we also empower the consumers with the highest quality produce at the best prices. If you don’t believe me the just check out our produce at TheReal.Co and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
We are in the process of completing the creation of a Single Origin Certification Seal that will give consumers complete transparency into their products. We believe that such a certification seal is long overdue and we are proud to wear the mantle of the World’s First Single Origin Food Company. For companies around the world, the Single Origin Seal gives them and their consumers transparency and a way to understand the value of sustainability in every transaction.
Fair trade and Single Origin share certain spaces but in short, Single Origin is about creating transparent and sustainable trade which gives everyone the chance to see the chain and benefit from it. Fairtrade is a syndicate that empowers itself by showing that it is empowering others but it does not connect growers with consumers and binds growers into fixed price agreements that do nothing more than pay staff and keep the ball rolling.
I hope you all find a way to live in a transparent and sustainable way that keeps you happy, healthy and productive in whatever you are doing life…..
CJ Carter – The Real Co.
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