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Fair Trade Consumption in France- I

Sustainable development, citizen's engagement and ethical consumption are coming out of their fancy, 'intellectual' mode to touch a larger base as more and more people are aware of and have means to allow themselves and others the practice of fair trade.

Fair Trade Breakfast

© Max Havelaar - Stiftung (Switzerland)

More than 80 million families in 40 countries have consumed fair trade/ Max Havelaar products. More than 6 million people in 60 countries- of whom 1.2 million individual farmers and workers- benefited from an estimated €3.4 billion generated in global Fair trade retail sales in 2009 that saw a growth of 15% compared to previous year. In France, in 2008, one household per three, bought at least one product labelled Fair trade-Max Havelaar offered by 205 enterprises. Fair trade sales generated 287 million euros in 2009 in France.


What is Fair Trade ?

Three quarters of around 963 million* people around the world, who suffer from hunger, are villagers, farm labourers and farmers from Africa, South America and Asia. Often their conditions of work are such that do not allow them dignity of work, tools to sell at proper price, right means to information or for transport, access to the market and interested consumers- a luxury enjoyed by most of their counterparts in the developed countries. This makes their position vulnerable and marginalised in the commercial and consumption chain. Fair Trade ((French 'commerce équitable') practices around the world aim to organise such producers so that they can enjoy secure, sustainable livelihoods, fulfil their potential and decide on their future. Simply put, Fair trade offer farmers and workers in developing countries a better deal and improved terms of trade thereby improving the condition of their work and lives. In turn, the consumers participate in reduction of poverty through their everyday shopping and consumption.

Fairtrade products come from countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania and the Caribbean from small farmers, farmer organisations or companies with hired labour (only for certain products)- all with low to medium development status. These products are marketed by national Labelling Initiatives or marketing organizations, agreed by FINE*, working in 25 countries which are then sold in over 70 countries worldwide.


Fair Trade Products

In France, the most commonly known and used Fair Trade products are café, cocoa, tea and chocolate. There are other products such as cotton, leather, silk, terracotta, stones, ceramic, wood, bronze, fruits, palm leaves, olive oil, gold, spices, herbs etc. and services such as tourism that are under the umbrella of Fair trade products. In 2009, as many as 3015 products carried Fair trade-Max Havelaar labelling in France.

A product with the Fairtrade Mark means independent certification against the Fairtrade standards at each step of the commercial supply chain. These standards ensure a minimum floor price that aims to cover sustainable production for most products; a premium for development projects; access to credit for producers in advance of sale; long-term, stable contracts with buyers; respect for labour rights including no bonded or illegal child labour, health and safety, no discrimination; protection of sensitive nature areas and environment; safe handling of pesticides and no prohibited pesticide, no genetically modified products and democracy for smaller farm co-operatives, among others. Fair trade organisations do not engage in buying or selling the products but in guaranteeing the conditions that are required for an equitable trade and fair price on the just value of the products concerned. Some of the products at Starbucks, Cadbury, Ben and Jerry’s, Sainsbury’s, Green & Black’s and Coop are sourced from Fair trade chain. Some labels on product to denote their quality and fair trade can be distinguished with names such as Fair trade/ Max Havelaar, Fair Globe, Eco Cert, AB- Agriculture biologique, Rainforest Alliance Certified, Fair Trade Certified™ label in USA and Canada etc.

Fair Trade Labels
credit: agence Idé
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Fair Trade in France

More and more French people are aware of and consume fair trade and organic products compared to previous years. However, French fair trade consumption remains limited to an elite group of consumers. Reason being that these products cost 10-30% more than the 'normal' products. An elevated price combined with a lack of awareness about its 'value' could be a constraint for a large scale consumption. An average consumer may not be aware of what constitutes a fair trade practice, fair trade products, where to buy such products and how to identify them. Even interested consumers may be deterred by the non availability of such products in a super market closer to their place not to mention the limited range of products on which fair trade labelling is available.

Government of France has taken steps to ensure that the general public has the right information regarding fair trade and the government's stand on it. In April 2010, National Commission of Fair Trade- CNCE (Commission nationale du commerce équitable) was constituted by the joint efforts of Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Sustainable Development and various entities of fair trade.


Where to buy Fair trade products in France

Fair trade products such as coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, rice, spices, chocolate etc. are available on shelves at most of the mass retailers such as Carrefour, Hyper U, Cora, Auchan, Monoprix, LeClerc etc. For other products such as handicrafts (table art, cutlery, decorative items, textiles, musical instruments etc.), there are on line boutiques of specialised fair trade French organisations addresses of which are given below.

Ethiquable is a French co-operative enterprise that aims to bring together food products from 48 co-operatives of small producers of more than 26 countries. Consult their online boutique.

Artisan du Monde was created 35 years back as an associative network for distribution with the vision to support fair trade. They have several boutiques in France of which 6 are in Paris and 12 in the suburbs. The choice of products offered in their on line boutique are handicrafts, tea, coffee, chocolate, sugar, spices, fruit juices and cosmetics.

Alter Eco is a French ATO founded in 1998. It specializes in import and distribution of fair trade products to French market. More than 42 products were available, as of 2007, at various retailers such as carrefour, hyper U, monoprix etc. Their products include coffee, tea, chocolate, rice, sugar, olive oil, juice, cotton, quinoa etc. It has on on line resource for finding its products as well as an on line boutique.

Lobidis was created in 1988 in Bretagne. It was the first French enterprise to commercialise fair trade products. It specializes in coffee, tea, sugar and chocolate. Consult its on line boutique.

Terre et Terroir is a speciality boutique opened in 2007 by collective efforts of farmers of Anjou- Angers (Pays de la Loire). More than 300 sq.m of the store is stocked with diverse local products from sustainable production and fair trade- vegetables, fruits, cheese, meat, spices, tea, coffee, chocolate, textile, handicrafts, decoration etc.
Terre et Terroirs- 57 avenue Jean Boutton - 49130 Les Ponts de Cé - France. Tel: +33 (0) 2 41 93 91 47. Open everyday except Sunday.

For further addresses and boutiques in and around Paris, read Organic and Fair Trade Shopping in France.


History of Fair Trade

Fair Trade- Coopérative Kuapa Kokoo - Ghana - Ecabossage du cacao pour récupérer les fêves
© Max Havelaar

The fair trade movement was born in Europe in 1960s. The earlier precursors of today's fair trade organisational efforts was the Alternative Trading Organisation (ATO) launched in 1965. ATO's aim was to contribute to the alleviation of poverty in the developing world by providing an alternative trading to remove disparities to marginalised producers seeking to sell their goods to the developed countries. In 1968, American Stewart Brand launched The Whole Earth Catalog**- a catalogue containing the listing of products for a sustainable lifestyle. In 1969, first Worldshop was opened in Netherlands. British Oxfam (erstwhile Oxford Committee for Famine Relief) broadened its scope from one time charities to long term development and self support programs through 1970s and 1980s.

Max Havelaar, the first fair trade label, was created in 1988 under the initiative of the Dutch development agency 'Solidaridad' to facilitate fair trade coffee from Mexico to be sold into Dutch supermarkets.*** Mexican coffee producers are said to have mentioned « To receive your donation each year to build a small school is good. But the real support would be to receive the right price for our café. » In late 80s and early 90s, the Max Havelaar initiative was replicated in several other markets across Europe and North America. Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) was established in Bonn, Germany in 1999 to unite the labelling initiatives under one umbrella and harmonize worldwide standards and certification.

As on date, throughout the world, fair trade practices are maintained by FINE- an informal association of various networks employed in promoting fair trade such as- Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, World Fair Trade Organization, Network of European Worldshops and European Fair Trade Association, created in 1998. They seek to promote fair trade by encouraging dialogue, transparency and respect between various members of the trade supply chain from producers to consumers.


Related Reading

Organic Food- Fair Trade Consumption in France- II on novel, communitarian ways to cultivate, manage and procure organic food directly from the small producers.

Useful Links

Website of the French National Commission of Fair Trade (CNCE) (in French)

French Government's website on Sustainable Development (in French)

Max Havelaar France (in French)

Centre de Documentation Tiers Monde de Paris- For documents related to Fair Trade since 2000. CDTM, 20 rue Rochechouart, 75009 Paris Tél. : + (33) 01 42 82 07 51 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it CDTM is open from Tuesday- Saturday from 11:00 AM- 07:00 PM. Consultation on the spot is free.

Malongo- A leading Nice based French producer and trader specialised in fair trade and organic coffees since 1992. Also the creator of vacuum packed metal cans.

Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International - A network of 24 fair trade organisations.

Oxfam- An international confederation of 14 organizations working together in 99 countries and with partners and allies around the world to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice. Oxfam International was formed in 1995 by a group of independent non-governmental organizations.

Solidaridad- An international network organisation with more than 20 years of experience in creating fair and sustainable supply chains from producer to consumer.

Café Direct- A British specialist of fair trade coffee, tea and cocoa products.

Traidcraft- A UK based fair trade specialist of tea, coffee and sugar.

British Association for Fair Trade Shops (BAFTS)- An association of retailers engaged in Fair Trade retailing and campaigning.

Gepa- A German fair trade organisation working in fair trade for the past 35 years. On line boutique includes tea, coffee, sugar, cocoa

Equal Exchange- A USA based fair trade organisation dealing in tea, coffee, chocolate, banana and snacks. Established in 1986.



*925 million in 2010 as per Food and agriculture organization (FAO), down by 9.6% over 2009.

**The catalogue was published intermittently till 1998

***Max Havelaar was a fictional Dutch character from 1860 novel by Multatuli who was opposed to Dutch colonialism of coffee plantations in Indonesia.

Editor's note: The French legal stand for Fair Trade is denoted in 'article 60 de la loi du 2 août 2005' which states

Article 60

I. - Le commerce équitable s'inscrit dans la stratégie nationale de développement durable.

II. - Au sein des activités du commerce, de l'artisanat et des services, le commerce équitable organise des échanges de biens et de services entre des pays développés et des producteurs désavantagés situés dans des pays en développement. Ce commerce vise à l'établissement de relations durables ayant pour effet d'assurer le progrès économique et social de ces producteurs.

III. - Les personnes physiques ou morales qui veillent au respect des conditions définies ci-dessus sont reconnues par une commission dont la composition, les compétences et les critères de reconnaissance des personnes précitées sont définis par décret en Conseil d'Etat.'