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Fair Trade, a logo nearly unknown to Romanian consumers

14/05/2012 11:33

Conceived during ‘60th as an alternative step to combat poverty and social injustice, Fair Trade movement is mainly dealing with assurance of access of the small producers in the Third World countries to the global market, on conditions of some practices able to assure a fair price to their products.

At global level, the World Organization of the Fair Trade represents a network of Organizations for Fair Trade involving more than 350 partners in over70 countries, in Africa, Asia, Latin America as well as in Europe, North America and Pacific Ocean archipelagos.

The Organization has presently adopted more categories of standards, aimed to select the disadvantaged producers in global context. One of the categories is aimed to the small producers working together in co-operatives or other forms of democratic organization. Another category is referring to standards for workers, to whom the employers must pay decent wages, to grant their right to enlist themselves in professional unions, to assure health and safety standards and to offer them suitable shelters whenever the case. As far as the price is concerned, there is a commercial standard in force, in order to establish a minimal price offered to producers which would cover the costs of production, but also to allow the growth of the investment of these disadvantaged economic factors. 

Why all these measures? The supporters of Fair Trade consider the commerce a fundamental instrument of reducing poverty and to sustain the growth, under conditions of assuming of some social values in economic practice. Through Fair Trade, the producers have a greater control on their work and life. The citizens, from the small producers up to the advised consumers and the institutions all over the globe, support the responsible manufacture, the commercial practices and the consuming of the Fair Trade goods.

 

The International Day of Fair Trade

The International Day of Fair Trade is an initiative of the World Organization of Fair Trade and enjoys the support of thousands of citizens, producers and consumers, Fair Trade organizations, social and medioambiental movements, local authorities, national governments and multilateral institutions on the entire globe. Each year, the International Day of Fair Trade is celebrated on the second Saturday of May, this year the anniversary being on May 12, 2012. It is an anniversary which regretfully passed almost unnoticed in Romania. 

 


Fair Trade in figures

 

According to data advised by the European Parliament, Europe consumed Fair Trade goods of over 3 billion euro. A large part of them is directed towards Western European countries, United Kingdom being on the first place. If ranking the favorite goods for consumers, the bananas are on top in almost all the countries. For example in Austria the sales of bananas recorded in 2011 more than 25 million euro, 4% more than the previous  year. Practically each fifth banana sold in Austria carries the Fair Trade logo.

 

Fair Trade concept - almost unknown to Romanian consumers

The anniversary of the International Day of the Fair Trade passed almost unnoticed this year in Romania. At national level the Fair Trade concept is promoted by the CRIES Association- Center of Resources for Ethical and Solidarity Initiative. Its partnership with ASAT (Association for Sustaining of the Peasant Agriculture) and launch of the first portal in Romania dedicated to fair trade (www.comert-echitabil-romania.ro) are only two of the achievements of the campaign of citizens' information about the importance of responsible consumption and of development of some ethical mechanisms within economic field. Along with CRIES Association, the concept of Fair Trade is also promoted by the nongovernmental Organization Pro Fair Trade. Their site www.profairtrade.ro  is in itself a platform of information for those willing to find out more about the fair trade.

There are only two examples of timid attempts in popularization of a concept already spread world over. But we talk about "fair trade" a concept with little chance of success in Romania without the retailers' support. But the commerce is bombarding the consumers day by day with slogans about the lowest prices, in what looks a desperate attempt to attract them. So, we spin in circle. What are the chances that a merchant would change his policy overnight and explain to the clients that they must pay more for a product just to support the farmers in the countries of the Third World? Can such a step succeed amidst the present economical crisis and the social problems faced by the majority of the Romanian consumers, especially?

Certainly it is not easy, but without the implication of the retail networks, the approaches of non-governmental organizations have little chance of success. Let's try to detail. The Fair Trade goods have a higher price from the start. Many times it overpasses the price of brand products with large market share. Only a few companies decided to import such products in Romania. Their low rotation speed must be compensated somewhere both by the retailers and by those who import the goods. It is a handicap and few companies are ready to risk their money if facing it. And yet we find such products. Most of them in coffee, cocoa or chocolate category. But this is not a general presence because not all the retail networks involved in listing such products. And yet these are first steps, timid true, an attempt to diversify the assortment and at the same time to get the loyalty of a segment of consumers with an income over the average.

 

Fair Trade - an opportunity for private brands

Paradoxically, Fair Trade concept can become an opportunity for the private brands. For this kind of goods, the implication of the retail networks is much more punctual. In such cases, the efforts of small importing companies are practically taken over by the retail networks. Using their own brands, they offer a support to the farmers but also an alternative to the consumers. At European level, the implication of the retail networks through projects of private brands under logo Fair Trade is a certainty. Many of them have made a market strategy out of development of such projects. We talk about projects developed at international level and taken over afterwards by diverse countries where the retailers are present. Upon monitoring attentively the Romanian market we are surprised to find out that the number of private brand items developed under Fair Trade brand is greater than the number of brands already existing on the market. It's clear that we talk about a very different report of forces, and that what looks difficult and expensive for the private companies, is almost insignificant for the large retail networks. We have seen such items in almost all distribution channels. On the whole we talk about projects taken over from international and implemented also in Romania. Thus, the choice of the items and enlargement of the assortment are the responsibility of the branches in Romania. As it was expected, we find such items in the already mentioned categories. There are yet products which open new categories, like tea or rice, the proof that some retail networks begin to take more and more seriously the Fair Trade products.

Strategically, by positioning the price on upper tier, the Fair Trade goods are not cheap. That is exactly why they will not be found in the prime price categories, but rather under mainstream or premium brands. There are also positioning under brands BIO, associated with ecologic agriculture, like the brand Carrefour Agir. A special remark for Mega Image, a network whose assortment of Fair Trade goods is by far the most varied.

 

Rioba brand, open for Fair Trade

Metro Romania have recently included into the assortment of their brand Rioba, brand destined especially to HoReCa channel, a line of teas Fair Trade in two distinct packages. We can find out here types which are using ingredients certified Fair Trade, in varying percentages, like teas of sorrel, red fruits, green tea or English mix. The two packing used by Metro are for packages of 20 respectively 50 tea bags.    

We cannot close without underlying a first step also made by Kaufland people. The German retailer launched on their site, a page to inform the consumers about the Fair Trade concept. This is a first step made by a retailer in an attempt to educate the consumers and to popularize the concept.

Florin Frasineanu 

 

 


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