Fair trade in India

Fair trade in India

Bengalore, capital of Kamataka state, is a south-Indian city full of charms. It was built around a fort, which dates from 1537 and it is home to no less than 8.5 millions of people. We went to this city because this is where the Biofach exhibition took place (from November 12 to December 1, 2012). In Asia, it is one of the biggest international meetings for the organic plants and spices trade.

We talked with many organisations, but I especially remember one of them, which was specialised in certifying products harvested in forests. I thought this was an interesting approach, but unfortunately, when we went back home, our contacts didn’t answer our emails or phone calls anymore.

The question was: how to raise the producers’ income without disproportionately raising the selling prices to customers? One of the problems is that the Indian Rupee has a very fluctuating exchange rate. Moreover, the price of transport is linked to the price of energy; and in agriculture, harvesting is generally uncertain.

For the last few years, fair trade has been one of the major topics of conversation; after coffee and tea have been certified, many organisations have been created and they all try to impose their own norms and certification for some other productions such as Amalaki or Shatavari, but also for the berries harvested in the forests, for example the ones used in Triphala, Bibhitaki and Haritaki.

The « Fair trade » approach is interesting, provided that it benefits first to the local producers and not to a labyrinthine system which only raises the costs of production and the prices for the customers, without improving the quality of life for those who work the land.

As soon as we started talking with the creators of those certifications, we understood that things would not be easy. They all claim legitimacy, which is hard to verify, and start by asking a lot of money without telling us what the benefits for the producers will be.

We have had long discussions with our Indian partners, with whom, over time, we created bonds of trust. It seems obvious now that only a human-size organisation can understand how life is on the ground, and therefore satisfactorily answer through a case-by-case approach and not using common mathematical or fixed rules. We think that the right thing to do is giving priority to proximity, and this is what we have been doing for the last few months.

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