Global sales of most Fairtrade certified products continue to increase annually. But what about the farmer’s choice? Does he/she prefer producing for domestic markets, or is the advantage of complying to the Fairtrade standards bigger? A team of researchers from the University of Leuven (Belgium) have asked this question to rice farmers in Savalou, Benin, thus filling a gap in studies on Fairtrade.
Western consumers are increasingly buying Fairtrade certified products. They are concerned about the conditions under which food and agricultural commodities are produced, and whether farmers actually benefit from trade. Fairtrade provides a minimum selling price and a social premium to the farmers’ organisations, thereby ensuring long-term trading relationships and improving producers’ capacity. Next to these benefits, Fairtrade also entails requirements on production practices, such as a reduction in fertilizer and pesticides, and on working conditions, such as prohibition of child labour.
Farmers’ access to Fairtrade certification and its impact on their livelihoods have been investigated extensively. Some studies find positive effects while others find small or no effects. Access to Fairtrade contracts is often confined to better-off farmers, as the poorest farmers lack initial capital to apply for certification and are not able to comply with requirements. In addition, many studies have investigated how much Western consumers are willing to pay for Fairtrade products; they find that a significant share of consumers is prepared to pay a higher price.