Tuesday, 26 February 2008

UnFair Trade?

This report from the Adam Smith Institute (thanks to David Field's excellent blog) has really made me reconsider Fair Trade. For the last 5 years or so it has been axiomatic for me that one should buy Fair Trade where possible. Now I'm not so sure.

It really is worth a read, though it's far from perfect. Criticism of the large number of Mexican Fair Trade products does not quite do the job of detailed figures showing how much is actually spent on those products as opposed to the ones coming out of Africa. And charity does not have to go to the "most" deserving/destitute in every case - how could we decide that anyway!? (Cancer Research or the NSPCC? Famine relief in Darfur or in Bangladesh?) The mechanics don't involve a perfect utilitarian calculation, but are all about who we can reach, how much we can help them, who we know about, etc.

As for me and my house, we'll continue to buy Fair Trade products. The coffee and tea come not from Mexico but from India and Africa! The chocolate (Green & Black's and the Co-op's own brand) we particularly like, and the fact that it's slightly more expensive is a useful curb on my consumption. Bananas await further investigation. But at the very least, I am no longer a Fair Trade fascist...