Link strengthens between organic and Fair Trade imports

Caroline Scott-Thomas/

April 27, 2011


Demand for organic Fair Trade certified food imports increased significantly in 2010, with especially strong growth for vanilla, coffee, citrus and cocoa, according to Fair Trade USA’s 2010 almanac.

Fair Trade USA issues an annual almanac detailing the state of the Fair Trade market in the United States. The latest edition revealed a huge boost in demand for imports that were both Fair Trade certified and organic in 2010, from 47 percent of all Fair Trade imports in 2009, to 62 percent that carried both certifications last year.

Director of marketing and public relations at Fair Trade USA Stacy Geagan Wagner told FoodNavigator-USA that food manufacturers have played a strong role in this growth. The organization has offered Fair Trade certification for whole products for the past 12 years, but for the past four has also offered certification for ingredients in formulated foods.

Wagner said: “Organics have actually been popular for a number of years so we think that Fair Trade is now becoming well known enough that people are looking to do more with their money – not just looking to do what’s right for their family and the environment, but for family, environment and the people who grow the products.”

She said that a major increase in demand for organic Fair Trade imported ingredients such as honey, vanilla, spices and cocoa is a good indication that food manufacturers are embracing the Fair Trade ingredient certification. Cocoa, for example, saw 67 percent growth in imports over 2009, 88 percent of which was also certified organic, and the volume of certified vanilla imports nearly quadrupled due to recent commitments from major US buyers, Fair Trade USA reported.

Sugar and citrus were other areas that experienced major growth last year compared to 2009, with imports of Fair Trade sugar increasing 60 percent, 89 percent of which was also organic, while citrus saw a 96 percent increase in growth in 2010.

“In terms of demand for Fair Trade products they [consumers] are looking for the dual combo to do ‘good for me’ and ‘good for the planet’,” she said.

However, the link between organic and Fair Trade is not just consumer driven. Wagner said that Fair Trade USA has environmental standards and incentivizes organic farming, so organic agricultural practices are often more attractive to farmers who are working as part of a Fair Trade program.

“The mission of Fair Trade USA is to promote sustainable development,” she said. “…If you are going to have a healthy community and a healthy environment you need to look at it as a comprehensive solution.”

Fair Trade USA’s full 2010 almanac is available online here .

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