Chapter 27: Fair trade for small farmer cooperatives in Latin America
Labeled fair trade was born as Max Havelaar in 1988 at the request of Mexican coffee producers to a Dutch non-governmental organization (NGO). Twenty-five years later, Latin America continues to lead the fair trade movement as measured by the volume of its products circulating in commercial fair trade networks, the number of small producers involved and the dynamism of supporting organizations. Coffee maintains its position as the chief fair trade product. However, the founders of this initiative and this story’s protagonists no longer identify themselves with the fair trade movement. Instead they seek to reclaim fair trade’s founding principles through a system under their own control: the Small Producers’ Label (SPP). This chapter will discuss this history and the relationship between small Latin American and Caribbean producers and Fairtrade International, the primary fair trade organization (formerly known as Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International). This is a story of how actors in the global South insist on not being treated solely as beneficiaries of fair trade but rather as full and equal partners (Wilkinson and Mascarenhas 2007). It illustrates how actors articulate diverging definitions of what fair trade should be and examines the rivalry for its legitimate definition (Renard 2005; Renard and Loconto 2013). For Latin American producers’ organizations, fair trade should be a means for development – a tool for their own empowerment and survival in the global market.
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