Fair Trade USA, until recently known as Transfair, has announced its resignation from membership of the international Fairtrade labelling system, effective from the end of December 2011.
“FLO and Fair Trade USA share a belief in the importance of empowering producers and workers around the world to improve their lives through better terms of trade. However, as we look to the future, we recognize that we have different perspectives on how best to achieve this common mission.”
- Fair Trade USA and FLO joint statement, Thursday 15th September 2011
The intention appears to be for Fairtrade International (FLO) and Fair Trade USA to collaborate as best they can to maintain continuity for producers and companies, but it is clear that most players in the movement would rather this had not happened.
The Fairtrade Foundation recently pubished a useful "commodity briefing" on Fairtrade and Cocoa, combining a clear and succinct overview of the global cocoa industry with a case for why Fairtrade is needed.
The broad picture it paints is one of growing global demand for chocolate, driven by rising incomes in emerging economies, increasingly outstripping available cocoa supplies. In West Africa, the productivity of cocoa farming is low, with a lack of access to finance and technology, outdated farming methods, and no incentives to improve depleted soil or replace ageing trees.
Cocoa farmers in West Africa are likely to receive 3.5 to 6.4 per cent of the value of a chocolate bar, compared with around 16 per cent in the 1980s. Over the same period, the manufacturers' share has increased from 56 to 70 per cent and the retailers' from 12 to 17 per cent. Often their children can see no future in cocoa: the average age of a cocoa farmer in West Africa is 51 years.
Last night I attended the packed private view of a new art exhibition by renowned Ghanaian artist Owusu-Ankomah at the October Gallery in central London.