Fair Standards to Fuel Trade

  • Overseas
  • 1996

Recognizing how easily foreign aid can encourage corruption and dependency in poor countries, an alternative movement has grown up which emphasizes international trade as a means of helping farmers, small manufacturers, and residents of developing countries. Paul Rice spent years organizing coffee farmers into cooperatives where they could improve their quality control and maximize their pricing leverage. In 1996 he founded the nonprofit now known as Fair Trade USA. With donations from scores of foundations, hundreds of individuals, and many corporations, the organization has become the largest third-party certifier of products produced and sold on terms that are generous to overseas workers. The group puts its stamp of approval on items like coffee, cocoa, produce, nuts, sugar, apparel, stitched sports balls, and many more—a total of 12,000 products exported from 70 countries. The nonprofit estimates that consumers who prefer certified products currently deliver an annual premium of about $40 million to producers in poor countries, and that figure is rising every year.