Is Fair Trade Really Fair? (Jaw-Dropping)


Who started Fair Trade?

According to the World Fair Trade organization it started in the United States  where 10,000 villages (self help crafts) began buying needlework from Puerto Rico in 1946. SERRV which is a non-profit fair trade and development  organization  started to trade with poor communities in the South in the late 1940s.   The first formal “fair trade” shop opened in 1958 in the U.S.A specifically sold the needlework and other items.  In Europe fair trade can be traced back to the late 1950s when Oxfam UK started to sell crafts made by Chineses refugees in Oxfam shops (WFTO, December 2015). The first fair trade agricultural products were coffee and tea. Trading amongst each other was not only a way to make money but a way of life to survive especially for poor villages.


Why Did Fair Trade Organization Start?

Fair trade organization originally started to help farmers become more sustainable by providing them better trading conditions in developing countries. As Wilson (2011: 326) points out, fair trade begins with a “critique of the ‘unfair’ operation of global markets.” Unfortunately within developing countries there is negative exploitation such as low wages, child labor, and lack knowledge. Fair Trade organization aims to reduce the exploitation  and educate the farmers to create cooperatives or groups to help them gain buying power as well as long term relationships with the consumer to have a sustainable business.  More than 1.65 million farmers and workers  are participating within the Fair Trade Organization Council today.


What Are The Advantages and Disadvantages of Fair Trade?


Of course the Fair trade organization has good intentions but we must analyze if this is truly a practice  that is all in all good for the people. Originally Fair trade intentions or mission was to help the small farmers in developing countries that lacked the resources to make it easier for them to sustain.  The fact that most farmers that are established as well as  big brands that are established are the main participants within the Fair Trade Organization is problematic. Its almost as if Fair Trade Organization forgot their whole mission was to support the small, misrepresented, underpaid, disadvantaged farmers. Instead its creating capitalists  farmers which goes against the roots of fair trade to empower the poorest farmers.  Since not all farmers can pay or qualify to work within these cooperatives it creates an invisible dividing wall within these communities. Fair trade organization is supposed to make sure the farmers or creators receive  better wages and better trading conditions. SOAS, University of London, did an extensive study with fair trade coffee in Ethiopia and the results showed that Fair Trade Organization made a very minor impact for the farmers when it came to their wages and working conditions.  The lack of regulation allows organizations that receive the Fair Trade certificate to not make an investment in creating better working conditions but allows them to market their organization with their accreditation since there isn’t a follow up. If there were follow ups put in place maybe the organizations holding the accreditation would invest more in better working conditions, better pay, and no child labor. Fair trade has grown to big to regulate to uphold their original mission to empower the small poor farmers in developing countries.

Direct Trade Definition Direct Trade Tea

Means to trade without intervening or intermediaries. This means that there is no organization between the seller and producer.  When direct trade is in place the producer can negotiate their wages which in returns gives the consumer a high quality product. This gives both the seller and producer the opportunity to grow together because their success depends on each other to succeed. With direct trade the producer and seller grow a better relationship because they talk directly to each other and can discuss any problems or opportunities. With direct trade the farmers are able to focus on their passion and grow artisan quality batches at a higher prices which in return creates a sustainable business for the farmers with long term relationships.


Single Origin Single Producer

Single original doesn’t necessarily mean all the tea or coffee or whichever product your buying is all of high quality. Some single origins are large and will mix their high quality with their low quality product to reach a certain price point. This is where Single producer comes in. Single producer means the buyer strategically works with one farmer and buys from that farmer vs to buy from a single region which can be a group of farmers that don’t all have the same quality product . Single producer really targets and works with that farmer and that product to get a higher quality product. This is how your able to receive true high quality artisan batches of coffee or tea or whichever product your buying. When a buyer strategically sources from one farmer a product you can monitor it better vs if you buy a product from a single origin that comes from many farmers. This gives the farmers selling power and leverage to negotiate better wages for these artisan single producer products.

Why Outwoken Tea? 

At Outwoken Tea I source tea from single producers. I know the farmers names, their history, when they picked the tea, at which elevation and their farming methods. I specifically picked farmers that use sustainable farming methods that take care of the land vs sucking the life out of the land for the mighty dollar. All of the farmers I source tea from grow their tea in ecological reserves or in the mountains. The teas are naturally fed with spring water from the land and most are hand picked. When I receive the tea for example purple tea it comes from the same farmer, from his land and picked by his workers in efforts to create an artisan batch of high quality tea.  For me as the buyer this also gives me security to know this is what quality I can expect vs not knowing if the next batch will be as good.


My whole goal of this blog was to really create an awareness on how different terminology is defined to help you the consumer to invest your dollar in a better cause. I truly believe if we invest in each other as small business owners and farmers we can truly sustain without a huge organization and live a better life.  I have nothing but respect for the Fair Trade Organization, but I believe  there needs to be some improvement and refocus to get back to their roots. I support the people because I am the people and want you to support the people.  Stay #outwoken


I hope you enjoyed my blog and please leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts on this subject. We are only as strong as our weakest link! Remember when you support Outwoken tea you support families, the environment, and a greener future!

By Aureal owner and founder of Outwoken Tea










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