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Best Practices voor een duurzame toekomst
01 november 2008

Dutch first-rate butchers go Fair Trade

Dutch Princess Máxima opened the Fair Trade Week, here together with Coen de Ruiter, director of Max Havelaar (left) and Bart Merkus (director of Royal Verkade).

The main problems in the soy sector are deforestation and abuse of human rights in the producing countries. Fair trade soy, produced according to strict criteria regulating environment, working conditions and child labour, is currently available on the worlds markets. A great deal (60 percent) of supermarket products contain soy and the majority of the global production of soybeans (roughly 66 percent) goes into cattle feed.

Until now Dutch retailers have been reluctant to follow the example of some Swiss and British retailers in making fair trade products their generic brands. The customer is king, and the king is not willing to pay more than the prevailing market price, says Mark Jansen of Centraal Bureau Levensmiddelenhandel (CBL), the branch organisation for Dutch retailers. “Dutch consumers are far more price-sensitive than their British and Swiss counterparts. Thats just the way it is. Issues such as labour conditions, human rights and deforestation are too large for retailers to deal with. You cant make them responsible for these themes. If society says they are important, the government must create rules to stop these products at the Dutch border.”

Coen de Ruiter is manager of fair trade certification organisation Max Havelaar. We call him as he is returning from a conference about fair trade. “I know CBL has this opinion, but I disagree. CBL underestimates Dutch consumers. Dutch Royal Verkade is now using 100 percent fair trade cocoa and sugar in its products. Retailers like C1000 and Plus are selling 100 percent fair trade bananas. Retailer Lidl has put a dozen of its generic brands under the fair trade label, which are doing quite well. Finally retailers are beginning to understand how it works. They are accelerating. For 2009 I expect a retailer to make a major step forward, but I cant say which one.”

In a recently issued scientific fair-trade programme evaluation, a team headed by professor Ruerd Ruben of the Centre for International Development Issues Nijmegen of Radboud University concludes that the total marketed volume for fair trade (FT) products “remains small and further expansion will depend on the involvement of large-scale retail networks and possibly the mainstreaming of key elements of the FT approach towards international corporations.” The study further concludes that “even while important effects on asset accumulation, credit use, investments, expenditure patterns and organizational force are registered, the direct tangible net income effects remain fairly modest.” This limited direct income effect is partly due to relative high market prices during the period of field research. Most significant changes are observed in several attitudinal aspects (i.e. improved risk behaviour, larger time-horizon and higher willingness to invest) that point to entrepreneurial responses to improved income certainty.

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