In November 2012, the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR), an association of professional investigative journalists throughout Africa dedicated to information dissemination and social justice, issued the following report on fair trade cocoa production in Africa. As the title – “Fair Trade Rip-off” – suggests, they were critical of fair trade in the region. They found, among other issues, that farmers did not know how, or in some cases even that, fair trade benefited them, fair trade farmers were not paid more than their non fair trade counterparts, cooperatives sometimes became simply substitutes for “middlemen,” and that the labeling organization whose seal appears on the final product benefit financially more than the farmers themselves.
Also included here is the response of Fairtrade International, the main target of this report. In their response, they do acknowledge that there is room for improvement, notably challenges with democratic organization and communication and repositioning the poorest and most marginalized farmers in the supply chain. They stand by cooperatives as the best way to organize farmers and overcome these challenges, highlight the benefit of fair trade’s social premium, and point to design flaws in the investigation, for example speaking with relatively few farmers.
A third document, not directly in response to the FAIR report, is issued by Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union, a Co-op in Ghana, in support of fair trade.
FWP presents all three as a way to point to the complicated nature of these issues, share information, and highlight the need for additional objective research exploring the challenges and benefits of fair trade.