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Fair Trade Industry Finds Success

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo http://tinyurl.com/ycxhwlj January 11, 2010 Fair trade industry finds success by
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 12 5:29 AM
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      January 11, 2010
      Fair trade industry finds success
      by Melissa Domsic

      EAST LANSING - Are you in need of some colorful stationery, handmade
      from elephant dung?

      Kirabo's got it.

      OK, so maybe that's not your style. But Kirabo, as a "fair trade" store,
      also sells everything from handmade instruments from Nepal, onyx stone
      boxes from Pakistan, pine needle baskets from Nicaragua and a wide array
      of unique items from artisans in more than 30 developing countries.

      The merchandise is all fair trade, meaning laborers who produce the
      crafts and foods - including those from Third World countries - are paid
      "fair" wages. Several other criteria also are met, such as guaranteed
      minimum floor prices.

      There is no set scale for prices and wages. But associations such as
      TransFair USA, an Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit, list several
      standards that must be met for products to be certified as fair trade.

      Despite the struggling retail industry, area fair trade merchants say
      business is doing well as more people learn about fair trade principles.

      "As the economy tanked and people were donating less to charities, they
      know if they shop fair trade, they're doing two things at once," said
      Gail Catron, managing partner of Kirabo.

      Catron said fair trade customers can buy unique gifts while also
      contributing in a charitable way to disadvantaged artisans.

      Kirabo, named after the Ugandan word for "gift," opened in August 2007
      at 215 Ann St. in East Lansing.

      Catron, 56, had never heard of "fair trade" until December 2006, when
      she saw a booth of Nicaraguan gifts at a craft sale in Haslett.

      Volunteers from Okemos Community Church were selling the items for
      Esperanza en Accion, a Nicaragua-based fair trade organization.

      Catron was inspired by the story of a poor Nicaraguan villager
      struggling to make ends meet, so she started volunteering for the group.

      Then, after visiting a fair trade store in Ann Arbor, Catron knew she
      had to open her own. She had recently earned her business degree from
      Michigan State University and couldn't find a job.

      "What attracted me is now someone can earn a living that they should
      have been earning, and also the fact that there's no harm to the
      environment, no child labor, no sweatshop working conditions," she said.

      Kirabo sells items from more than 15 fair trade organizations, most of
      which are members of the Fair Trade Federation. Most items sell for
      under $35. But some, such as more expensive pottery, can go for more
      than $100, Catron said.

      Food is more costly

      Fair trade crafts are typically less expensive than handmade crafts from
      the United States or other non-fair trade suppliers, Catron said. But
      fair trade food, such as coffee, is usually more expensive because of
      the costly certification process, she said.

      Catron is Kirabo's only full-time employee. There are usually six
      part-time workers, as well.

      She expects 2009 sales to exceed $200,000, about 8 percent higher than 2008.

      Business also is going well at La Bodega, which opened in August at 619
      E. Grand River Ave. in East Lansing.

      The shop sells handmade items bought directly from artists and
      cooperatives in several different countries. All merchandise is sold for
      under $15.

      The products aren't necessarily fair trade certified, but general
      manager Denice Miller said La Bodega does its own importing to ensure
      everything is done in a fair manner.

      "We're doing far better than we ever would have hoped for a first-year
      business," Miller said.

      She did not provide specific financial figures.

      Growing movement

      Though the fair trade movement is growing in the United States, it's
      more prevalent in Europe, where the concept has been gaining popularity
      since post-World War II, said Paulette Stenzel, a professor of
      international business law at Michigan State University.

      At least 72 percent of adults in the United Kingdom recognize the fair
      trademark on products, while that figure is less than 20 percent in the
      United States, according to Stenzel and the London-based Fairtrade

      The fair trade movement started taking off in the United States about 10
      years ago with fair trade sales at churches and synagogues, Stenzel said.

      Despite the recession, Stenzel said fair trade sales have increased.
      Equal Exchange, a fair trade cooperative, saw 17 percent sales growth
      from 2007 to 2008, according to the co-op's annual report.

      East Lansing Food Cooperative sells Equal Exchange products such as
      chocolate and coffee.

      Fair trade sales at the co-op have been steady, said David Finet,
      general manager of the store located at 4960 Northwind Drive, East Lansing.

      Finet said he's seen more local churches and other organizations get
      involved in fair trade sales.

      "Even (Kirabo), the fact that the entire store, fully staffed, can have
      that sort of presence in the community, shows that it's becoming
      something that people are much more familiar with," he said.
      Additional Facts

      What is fair trade?

      An alternative way of doing business that promotes long-term
      relationships between producers in developing countries and consumers in
      developed countries, such as the United States.

      Fair trade calls for fair wages, cooperative workplaces, consumer
      education, environmental sustainability, financial and technical support
      and community development.

      Source: Paulette Stenzel, professor of international business law at
      Michigan State University


      Traders who purchase Fair Trade Certified products agree to four principles:

      • Pay at least a price to producers that covers the costs of sustainable
      production (the Fairtrade Minimum Price)

      • Pay a premium that producers can invest in development

      • Partially pay in advance when requested

      • Sign contracts that allow for long-term planning and sustainable
      production practices

      More info

      • Fair Trade Federation:
      http://www.fairtrade federation.org

      Source: Fair Trade Federation

      Dan Clore

      New book: _Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon_:
      My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      (Wait for the new edition: http://hplmythos.com/ )
      Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      "From the point of view of the defense of our society,
      there only exists one danger -- that workers succeed in
      speaking to each other about their condition and their
      aspirations _without intermediaries_."
      --Censor (Gianfranco Sanguinetti), _The Real Report on
      the Last Chance to Save Capitalism in Italy_
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