The Instigator
theodora
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
ax123man
Con (against)
Winning
12 Points

fair trade

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
ax123man
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/12/2012 Category: Economics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,926 times Debate No: 27155
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (2)

 

theodora

Pro

By fair trade I mean A movement which strives for fair treatment for farmers. In a fair trade agreement, farmers, who in other situations might be more susceptible to the will of the purchaser, will negotiate with the purchasers in order to receive a fair price for their products. Farmers who engage in fair trade also aim to pay their workers a fair price, and engage in environmentally-friendly practices.
Fisrtly Fair Trade means fair pay and working conditions for farmers and
producers. Fair Trade products are made in safe and healthy working
conditions, where farmers and producers receive a fair price and have a voice in
how their workplace is run.
Fair Trade is also safe. It actively promotes integrated farm
management systems that improve soil fertility and preserve valuable
ecosystems, and limit the use of harmful agrochemicals that present dangers to
farmers" health. That means food that"s safer for you and for the people who
grow it.
ax123man

Con

I accept your debate.

Pro has expounded on quite a utopian ideal for farming, with everything very "fair" including pay, price, environment, working conditions, and management, etc. I hope Pro can find time to define "fair", where this farming is taking place, and help me understand how his/her vision is unlike reality.

Good luck, Pro.
Debate Round No. 1
theodora

Pro

By fair I mean something right and based on rules, logic and ethics.
Farming takes place in many poor contries, where the farmers are used for one person's profit when fair trade mark doesn't exists! FLO (Fair trade International) makes sure that more money reaches the farmers.

Waiting for your arguments,
Pro
ax123man

Con

Hmmm, uou haven't really presented any evidence, so I've taken it upon myself to review the FLO website and read up on Fair Trade in general.
http://www.fairtrade.net...

Basically what you have here is socialism. I'll try to summarize briefly what the FLO is all about. The FLO believes that free trade hurts the poor because only the rich benefit. Food produced under this system is labeled with an FLO trademark. The products command a price premium as consumers feel assured there has not been any slave/child labor, unfair…. well, you get the picture. The FLO chooses a limited subset of producers that meet their criteria. Mainly they must be small, not have much hired labor, not use slave or child labor. And directly from their web site: "Profits should be equally distributed among the producers". The FLO also sets minimum prices to be paid producers.

This is all a pretty big deal apparently (and I've learned a lot in this debate) so I thank my opponent for that. In the end, it appears the topic of this debate is "Free Trade vs Socialism".

The following is a review of Fair Trade by the Adam Smith Institute:
http://www.adamsmith.org...

I'll try to summarize some of the more interesting bits from that document. In a paragraph comparing Free Trade and Fair Trade, the author writes:

However, free trade proponents also seek to open up the economies of poor countries so that their citizens can participate in the world economy; Fair Trade proponents seek special protectionist measures for the poor to isolate them from the world economy.

It's bad enough the FLO is fixing prices and having producers distribute profits equally, but it appears to me they are also preventing producers from plugging into the vary system that the "rich" have access to.

One important point the paper brings out is how much effort is put into marketing and sales. That all sounds great but if they really wanted to help producers wouldn't it make sense to put effort into studying the economics of why these farmers are poor in the first place? Is the land viable for farming? Are the logistics and transportation viable? What farming tools are being used? The FLO doesn't seem terribly concerned with economics.

I'll mention just a couple points regarding the price fixing and economics. One, only 20% of Fair Trade certified crops end up in Fair Trade labeled products. Two, only 10% of the premium paid for those products goes to the producer. Ouch. I doubt if consumers know that when they purchase the product based on the label.

Another interesting point is that the Fair Trade movement is involved in setting primary education program. The following is from Fair Trade education document:

Explain that more and more people are keen to support Fair Trade because it really makes a difference to the lives of the people who grow or make the goods we consume.

Shouldn't we rather desire to teach our children to think critically about such matters so that, whatever the truth might be, it can be found out as generations pass?

But in the end, we must ask whether the Fair Trade programs are affective. The paper points out that there is little hard evidence. Fair Trade instead tends to rely on anecdotal evidence.
Debate Round No. 2
theodora

Pro

dear Con, thank you for your arguments, let me now present you some more arguments.
Firstly, Fair Trade is trade farmers can count on. Fair Trade is committed to
strengthening direct partnerships between buyers and producers. These
partnerships provide an avenue for buyers to purchase quality products from
people they trust, and offer a sustainable and reliable way for farmers, artisans
and their families to improve their livelihood.
Fair Trade also means sustainable local economies. Fair Trade gives farmers
and artisans control of their own future. They can build their own businesses,
rather than working for a middle man, and the profits stay in their communities
and go back into their businesses.
Fair Trade also means what you buy matters. By choosing Fair Trade
products, you are not only accessing high quality products, you are making a
difference in the lives of the people who grow the food you eat and the goods
you use.
Closing, Fair Trade connects you with other cultures. Fair Trade products are
unique to the places they come from and the people who make them. Farmers
and artisans are involved in the entire process, and Fair Trade products reflect
the people and cultures they come from.
ax123man

Con

I appreciate Pro taking the time to respond on this important topic. Pro's heart is certainly in the right place, however I don't feel like Pro really addressed my points from round 2. Regardless, I will address Pro's points in round 3:

Firstly, Fair Trade is trade farmers can count on. Fair Trade is committed to strengthening direct partnerships between buyers and producers.

This sounds great, but what does it mean? If farmers want something to count on, they should consider the free market. A truly sustainable producer does not need socialist intervention as advocated by the FLO. In economics, prices are set by a supply/demand curve [1]. Producers are willing to produce more when prices are higher while consumers will purchase less at a higher prices. These two opposing forces meet at the market clearing price. Artificial distortions in this process are not only unnecessary but disruptive. If prices are artificially raised, there will a tendency toward surplus which has downward pressure on prices. That is one reason the FLO spends so much of it's resources on marketing the FLO label.

One of the interesting points made in Adam Smith paper [2] is that Fair Trade movement arose from the coffee crisis of the 1990's. Governments tried to fix this market through the International Coffee Agreement. The result was over-production and a crash in prices.

These partnerships provide an avenue for buyers to purchase quality products from people they trust, and offer a sustainable and reliable way for farmers, artisans and their families to improve their livelihood

I agree that one of the functions of the FLO is essentially a food broker. This is an important function for farmers. All producers rely on brokers, logistics and other sources for the sale of their products. However, the FLO masquerades itself as a charitable organization and tends to put great emphasis on it's labeling program. The fact that the FLO puts so much emphasis on marketing it's label and so little emphasis on real agricultural development is an indication that their primary concern is not with producers. That

Fair Trade also means sustainable local economies. Fair Trade gives farmers and artisans control of their own future. They can build their own businesses, rather than working for a middle man, and the profits stay in their communities and go back into their businesses.

There is really nothing magical about the FLO. As I've shown, they are effectively a middle man, a food broker. In addition, the labeling program effectively makes them a sort of pseudo-brand of product. I've also shown that the FLO adds very little profit for producers while at the same time impacting a fraction of the farmers in the countries they focus on. In fact, the FLO injects additional fees into the equation by charging packers of products a fee for the Fair Trade label. The FLO uses most of this fee money for marketing.

Fair Trade also means what you buy matters. By choosing Fair Trade products, you are not only accessing high quality products, you are making a difference in the lives of the people who grow the food you eat and the goods you use.

Is that not true of products I purchase from non-Fair Trade farmers? I've seen no real proof that the Fair Trade farmers deserve special treatment. While the FLO claims that they ensure no child or slave labor is used for farming, do they really follow up on this? Am I to believe that all or most non-Fair Trade farmers do use slave and child labor?

Closing, Fair Trade connects you with other cultures. Fair Trade products are unique to the places they come from and the people who make them. Farmers and artisans are involved in the entire process, and Fair Trade products reflect the people and cultures they come from.

Again, is this not true of non-Fair Trade products? In the coffee market, which is FLO's largest segment, Fair Trade products only make up five percent of the market [2]. Am I not helping the other 95% of farmers when I buy non-Fair Trade coffee?


I thank Pro for this enlightening debate. However, I feel that Pro's arguments generally rely more on heart, hope and faith. I have shown that Fair Trade has little real impact on producers. In addition, true sustainability and success for producers in poor countries will more likely come from free market trade.

[1] http://www.investopedia.com...
[2] http://www.adamsmith.org...
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by darkcity 4 years ago
darkcity
This might interest you. The 'Futures' exchange was developed to minimize risk to farmers from poor crops.

I can't find a good link, but this is an introduction-
"Fixing the price in advance of delivery reduced the grain dealer's risk exposure and made it easier to obtain credit to finance grain purchases from farmers."
http://agmarketing.extension.psu.edu...
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by AlextheYounga 4 years ago
AlextheYounga
theodoraax123manTied
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Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro did a horrible job. Free markets are always better.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
theodoraax123manTied
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro didn't do the work he needed to do to make a case. A basic problem is that Pro needed to present a clear resolution. Is it, "consumer should prefer fair trade goods." or what? "Fair" needed to be defined. Con did some research to advance the debate, and had some helpful sources. I think that there is an argument to be made that the fair trade marketing process benefits consumers by cutting out middlemen. there are arguments about consumers being able to buy what they prefer. Pro didn't make the arguments.