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Organic combination could build fairtrade awareness

By Jess Halliday , 18-Jun-2008

Organic certification in tandem with fairtrade can help raise awareness for ethical sourcing amongst consumers, says Organic Monitor, but the two systems are unlikely to merge entirely into one.

Organic Monitor valued the global organic market at over US$40bn (c€25.8 bn) in 2007; the value it put on the global fairtrade market was €2.3bn (c$3.5bn). According to the UK's Fairtrade Foundation, 70 per cent of consumers in the UK are now aware of the fairtrade mark. But in other European countries and the US, recognition of fairtrade lags far behind organic. "There is more confusion about fairtrade outside the UK," Amarjit Sahota, director of consultancy Organic Monitor told He agreed that organic and fairtrade are lumped together in a file marked 'good' in the minds of many consumers. Indeed, many consumers may be buying fairtrade products on the misunderstanding that they are organic. If awareness of fairtrade is low, then putting organic on the label can help make conscientious consumers aware of how the certification system on pricing structures works. This approach, which is used by a lot of products in France and Germany, widens the net on the number of consumers who could be attracted by certified products. While fairtrade standards are common across the globe, as set out by the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO) International, organic standards vary from region to region. This is because climatic conditions differ, so organic practices in one producing region may not be suitable in another. There are strong moves towards organic certification encompassing some of the social issues addressed by fairtrade, such as child labour and carbon footprint. The UK's Soil Association, for instance, has proposed that air-freighted organics only be acceptable if they meet stringent ethical standards. Conversely, Sahota believes fairtrade standards could also evolve to include aspects of ecological and sustainability. But he does not believe that the two certification systems will ever merge to be one, however, since the concepts are different. "One is a production system and one is a pricing system. They will never become the same." To make a product fairtrade is a relatively quick process, he said. You just need to change the pricing and payment structures. To change to organic production, on the other had, takes up to two years. "But in the short term, products bearing both marks can create more awareness of fairtrade and stimulate demand." Fairtrade into the future The 2007 value of the global fairtrade market represents a massive 47 per cent increase on the previous year. Organic Monitor says fairtrade "looks to follow the startling growth of the organic products market". Sahota said that while the percentage growth of fairtrade will be bigger as it is starting from a smaller base, organic will continue to be a bigger force in the market place - at least of the foreseeable future. If fairtrade were ever to catch up with organic, it would take about 20 years. It is certainly not going to happen overnight.

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