While perusing the Art of Tea catalogue, I came across an unfamiliar abbreviation: FTC. I was curious. FTC? It reminded me of that flower purveyor that sells online but I was pretty sure it was unrelated. I let it go. It wasn’t until I was researching the benefits of organic agriculture that I again stumbled across the letters, though this time I had context and a definition.
FTC: Fair Trade Certified
But this raised another question: just what exactly does it mean to be certified Fair Trade. I’d heard the expression bandied about a lot, usually in connection to globalization or protest against globalization, but I never really grasped its meaning. So off to Wikipedia I skipped, and found the answer to be better than I even imagined.
Here’s the definition according to Fine (an informal association of four of the main Trade Networks):
Fair trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, which seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. Fair trade organizations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.
One of the tenets of Fair Trade supporters is that the way production, especially agriculture, works when exporting from developing nations to industrialized nations, is fundamentally unfair for the producers. Because the Dollar and the Euro are so powerful, these trade deals can actually keep producers from being able to raise their prices and subsequently, their living conditions. So instead of keeping these workers down, fair trade encourages buyers to pay more for the product with the understanding that this increase will return to the workers in the form of improved housing and working conditions. In order to receive Fair Trade Certification, producers must prove that their workers are not being abused, that there is gender equality, and that there is transparency built into their system of production.
Fundamentally, just because we could buy tea for cheaper doesn’t mean that we should. If you consider the implicit costs in cheap goods, you soon realize that it may not be worth the savings. Take, for example, the cost to the environment of cheap fertilizers that allow for a greater yield but spoil the drinking water down stream. Is that worth an additional savings of ten cents?
And what of the individual harvesting of tea? Is it really worth a savings if we know that the people who provide the product we enjoy can barely afford to keep food on the table for their own families? At what point do we look at where our products come from with the same ethical view that we do production in our own country? As we become increasingly aware of our impact, not only on the environment, but also on the lives of those whose products we so readily consume, it’s is imperative that we begin to ask ourselves these kinds of questions.
Like the organic and biodynamic movements, Fair Trade is catching on. Art of Tea purchases Fair Trade tea whenever possible. Right now we have FTC BioDynamic Breakfast Tea and Herbal Earl Grey (with FTC roobios) available online. Even more varieties are available through our catalogue, and we’re always happy to help you with a selection if you contact our office.