Sure, we’ve all drunk Fairtrade coffee, and even consumed Fairtrade chocolate. But we have to admit, we never really stopped to think how it is helping disadvantaged communities and individuals.
Like many agricultural products, the farmer only sees a very small proportion of the value of the end product, and this is especially true for poorer rural communities in developing countries. In 2005 and also in 2007, I travelled to South Africa and visited a number of wineries in the Cape. The wine region is for various reasons very pro-active toward helping the communities in which they operate. At one particular winery we visited, I spoke to the General Manager who passionately showed us his plans of building new accommodation for the small township that has sprung up around the estate’s entrance.
Growing and making wine is particularly labour and capital intensive relative to many other agricultural enterprises, and profit margins are often slim. Therefore when Fairtrade works, it creates an added and sometimes critical incentive for poorer developing communities.
One of the great aspects of Fairtrade in the wine industry is that it will allow cooperatives to not only produce equivalent, but superior quality wine than many of its richer, new world counterparts. Grape vines it seems, do not discriminate between rich and poor, black or white, and under the right conditions with the right resources, the Fair Trade system is giving these guys the ability to match it with the big guns. All indications are that the current release Fair Trade wine being made available on the market is doing just that.