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Should I Buy Fair Trade?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2016
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The question of whether to buy fair trade products is something that many people ponder today. Products of this type are especially popular with people who are concerned about the compensation farmers and other providers receive for their efforts, and the impact of big business on the environment. When considering the purchase of fair trade items of any type, including fair trade food, fair trade tea, and fair trade fashion items, it is important to weigh the benefits against the liabilities before making a final decision.

Proponents who support the purchase of fair trade products usually cite three distinct advantages as reasons to buy fair trade coffee, tea and other products. The first has to do with equitable compensation for the labors that go into producing those products. Many understand that farmers receive higher compensation for their crops, and that the education learned through the fair trade process is invaluable to increasing their earning potential. Here, the focus is on the support of those who otherwise may receive low earnings without any type of additional benefits.

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Those who buy fair trade products often claim that the quality of the products are superior to similar products on the market. In addition, consumers can purchase the products at competitive rates, since the fair trade process eliminates several layers of retail marketing and expense, creating a winning situation for both producer and consumer. Since many products of this type are purportedly produced using environmentally friendly processes, people who seek to live a green lifestyle are also likely to buy fair trade products ranging from vegetables to clothing.

Not everyone agrees that the decision to buy fair trade products provides additional benefits for anyone concerned. Critics point out that the quality of fair trade goods are usually no higher or lower than other products. There is also some difference in opinion regarding whether the approach consistently provides a greater return for those producing the goods, both in terms of monetary compensation and support benefits. Often, statistics are cited to show that in specific instances, farmers who produce products for larger corporations do as well and sometimes better than those devoted to fair trade production.

Another major concern is the size of the fair trade market itself. Detractors note that the market is still somewhat small, with a limited number of consumers choosing to buy fair trade products. This indicates that the lack of volume sales means lower production rates, which in turn prevent producers from earning as much as they could from their efforts. Here, the idea is that those in richer countries can best aid those working in less prosperous areas of the world by increasing their demand for commercial products, which in turn allows more people to be engaged in the production process as employees.

The decision to buy fair trade products often comes down to the type of product under consideration and the circumstances that surround the production of that good. This includes locating tangible evidence supporting the claims that the move is good for the environment, right for the consumer, and profitable for the producer. Once the consumer is sure that the purchase will result in the benefits claimed, making the purchase can be considered worthwhile.

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