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"Fair Trade" Gets Boost in European Stores

Fair Trade products have officially made the jump across the Atlantic. Coffee, chocolate and clothes fairly produced by third-world producers will get special billing in 13 European countries.


Transfair coffee rolling off the line

Germany has always been proud of its third world-friendly, eco-conscious stance among the world's developed nations.

So it was no surprise when a total of three government ministers were on hand on Wednesday to present the official fair trade seal that will adorn third world products in European stores in the coming years.

The seal indicates the product, ranging from coffee to orange juice, was produced under humane conditions by laborers compensated fairly for their work. Transfair products are already available in 22,000 German stores, including supermarket chains.

"Those who buy this product, quite practically express solidarity with people in developing countries," said Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, who was joined by Consumer Protection and Agricultural minister Renate Künast and Environmental Minister Jürgen Trittin at the seal's presentation.

Tough requirements for certification

The seal, already well-known in the United States, will appear in stores in 13 European countries. Around 3 million consumers in Germany buy Transfair, according to statistics from the non-profit's German headquarters.

To ensure its products are produced in good conditions, the group works together with the Fair Trade Federation, which lays down a list of stringent criteria third-world farmers must fulfil. Coffee producers, for example, must belong to transparent cooperatives or organizations that guarantee their field laborers a good wage.

In exchange the producers are guaranteed credit should they need it and that they will receive a minimum of $1.26 (€1.16) per pound of coffee.

"If you want to examine the dimensions of this: The amount one coffee-grower, working under intense competitive conditions, receives for one kilo of coffee, is significantly less than what we pay for an espresso in a restaurant," said Trittin.

Small signs of success

Transfair, is part of a federation of 17 Fair Trade certified organizations in North America, Europe and Japan. Though the movement has made progress and gained international attention in recent years, it has yet to have a significant effect on the makeup of world trade. Fair Trade Coffee, the most widely-distributed product, still makes up only 1 percent of the worldwide coffee trade. The organizations have celebrated small successes. In 2000, they got the Starbucks coffee chain to sell Fair Trade Certified coffee at least once a month.

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