Fair Trade Fruit: A Guide to Definitions & Certifications

What Does ‘Fair Trade’ Mean for Fruit?

Fruit: A Fair Trade Guide

By Tracy Renning
Reviewed and Edited by Brett Stadelmann

The term “fair trade” gets thrown around a lot in the global produce market these days. But what does it really mean? The words imply a more ethical approach to the trading of products across the globe, but knowing how to distinguish between legitimate claims and greenwashing can be a constant challenge.

Fruit, in particular, can be difficult to identify as fair trade. The global trading of bananas, mangoes, pineapples, and all manner of fresh fruit tends to get processed through multiple checkpoints on the journey from their homeland to import docks, making it hard to track the true nature of their trade.

Fortunately, there are certifications we can look out for when navigating the supermarket, allowing for a more ethical shopping experience that uplifts the planet and its people rather than prohibiting it.

We’ve created a comprehensive guide to global fair trade fruit markets so that you can cultivate a more sustainable and satisfactory relationship with your grocery cart. From fair trade definitions to benefits and everything in between, we’ve delved deeper into this fascinating fruity topic.

The Definition Of Fair Trade In The Fruit Industry

Fair trade is a global agricultural and economic movement designed to support farmers and traders in developing countries. The Fairtrade organization is the world’s largest and most recognized fair trade system that helps producers in developing countries achieve sustainable, equitable trade relationships.

The term fair trade indicates that farm laborers receive fair and dignified compensation for their hard work.

Put simply, fair trade means fair wages, fair working conditions, fair worker’s rights, and as sustainable an approach as possible to the process of growing, harvesting, and exporting produce.

I know what you’re thinking—shouldn’t all trading be “fair”? Shouldn’t it be the standard?

Of course, all trading, from fruit to cosmetics, should be ethical and fair to all parties involved in growing, processing, production, and transport. However, this is sadly far from the case, as many of the people who work to facilitate these trading processes are exploited for their services in a variety of ways.

This is especially true for less economically developed countries (LEDCs), which are so often taken advantage of by stronger economies that capitalize on cheap labor for personal gain.

For instance, many agricultural companies based in LEDCs are underpaid by their trading partners and forced to work longer, harder hours under stressful and, at times, even dangerous conditions in order to satisfy the high consumer demand for produce from more powerful developed countries.

Bearing this in mind, aiming to buy fair trade fruit is one small way that everyday consumers can make a difference. By buying fair trade, you can support a more ethical and sustainable global economy.

How Do I Know That A Fruit Is Fair Trade?

Consumers who want to buy fair trade fruit are faced with a myriad of confusing labels and claims in the supermarket. This can make it difficult to know when something is actually fair trade or not. Here are three different ways to identify whether the fruit at your grocer qualifies as fair trade or not:

  • Third party inspection and certification – Inspection companies such as Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO) and IMO’s Fair for Life perform inspections on fields and processing plants and compare performance based on Fairtrade standards

  • Brand programs – Some big brands, such as Whole Foods, BodyShop, and Rapunzel, have developed their own fair trade programs to certify operations against fair trade standards

  • Membership organizations – Organizations like the Fair Trade Federation (FTF) and the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) adopt brand members who meet their fair trade standards

When doing your fruit shopping, look for these names and organizations on the labels of what you put in your cart. This is the simplest and easiest way to ensure that your fruit is fair trade.

You can also learn more about whether the fruit (and any produce, really) you buy can be safely categorized as fair trade by doing research on your local supermarkets and finding out which organizations and programs they are affiliated with behind the scenes.

Green bananas still on the tree - Fruit: A Fair Trade Fruit Guide
Photo by Monika Guzikowska on Unsplash

What Are The Most Accessible Fair Trade Fruits You Can Find?

Unfortunately, not all fruits and vegetables are available in fair trade varieties. However, there are still many common fruits that can be found at most major supermarket brands across the globe. Here are the four most accessible fruits you can find certified as fair trade goods:

Bananas

Bananas are widely considered the most consumed fruit in the world—second only to tomatoes, which are often confused for vegetables.

It should come as no surprise then that these soft yellow fruits were one of the very first to be regulated under fair trade standards and are still one of the most accessible fair trade fruits available today.

Avocados

Similarly to tomatoes, avocados are often confused for being vegetables, but in reality, they are actually fruits. You can find fair trade avocados quite easily, no matter where you are in the world.

Mangoes

Sticky, sweet, orange mangoes are one of the most popular fruits in the world, which is good news for fair trade fruit lovers all over. Usually imported from tropical regions, you can find fair trade mangoes in most major supermarket chains today.

Pineapples

Pineapples are another incredibly popular fruit worldwide. However, fair trade varieties were only introduced to many public markets in 2019, making them the youngest addition to the fair trade family of fruits on this list.

Other Fair Trade Products To Look Out For

Fair trade products extend far beyond just fruit. There is a wide range of other fair trade products you can easily find in the supermarket that will make your shopping cart more socially, economically, and environmentally friendly. Here are some of the most accessible fair trade products on the market today:

  • Cocoa
  • Coffee
  • Honey
  • Nuts
  • Herbs and spices

Is Fair Trade Fruit Different From Other Fair Trade Products?

The short answer to this question is no, not really. Fair trade fruit farms are assessed based on working conditions, wages, worker’s benefits, and processing quality, all criteria that can apply to other types of products around the world.

If you see a fruit that has been fair trade certified by a legitimate organization, it simply means that it has met the global fair trade standards as set by international law.

Why Fair Trade Fresh Produce Is Important

Buying fair trade produce is one of the most important steps any individual or family can take in an effort to make the world and its inhabitants a better place.

Not only is it a good thing to have transparency about the origins of the products you buy, but buying fair trade comes with many additional benefits worth looking into—from product quality to wealth distribution. If you’re not yet convinced, here are a few more benefits to buying fair trade fresh produce:

  1. More accessible prices

Part of the standards set by fair trade organizations involves proper compensation for laborers and farmers. Paying these local organizations directly not only distributes the wealth in a more sustainable and ethical way, but it can also make the finished products more affordable for consumers.

This is because many major trading corporations that uphold exploitative working standards tend to capitalize on profit, thus making the products less accessible to everyday people.

  1. Transfers wealth back to farmers

Farmers of all kinds desperately need more funding to continue producing organic, healthy fruits and vegetables while still compensating their staff in a fair way. While there are already 1.8 million farmers associated with Fairtrade, this number needs to continue to rise.

Fair trade standards shift the power away from mega-corporations and into those more directly affiliated with the produce themselves, bolstering the local agricultural industry and promoting a more sustainable farming economy.

  1. Better working conditions for laborers

As fair trade certifications become more standardized, they incentivize companies and brands around the world to meet the standards set by ethical inspection organizations like FTF and WFTO. This can help introduce better working conditions and compensation for the laborers behind them.

  1. Peace of mind for consumers

Whether you’re doing a weekly grocery shop, joining a fruit of the month club, or buying a few pieces of fruit as a quick snack, buying ethically sourced fresh produce is good for your mental health. In a world where exploitation has become one of the most powerful currencies available, knowing that the products you buy have come from a fair and dignified organization feels much better than the alternative.

  1. Supports a more diverse agricultural industry

When supermarkets choose to import fruit from fair trade certified sources, the options naturally reduce to smaller, more diverse farms and organizations across the world that are committed to more ethical farming—as opposed to larger, more industrialized companies with outdated diversity and compensation structures.

  1. Promotes ethical, conscious consumerism

Rampant consumerism has reshaped the way brands engage with the public. And for too long, consumers have been kept in the dark about the true origins of the products they buy.

But with the rise of fair trade popularity, a new era is unfolding for consumers – the option to make vastly more informed choices about the brands and organizations they choose to support. Fair trade certifications are highly conducive to a more ethical and conscious modern consumer.

Become A More Conscious Consumer – Choose Fair Trade Fruit Today

Understanding what fair trade means enables you to become a more ethical, mindful and conscious consumer. The more you learn about where your fruit comes from and how the people who grew and harvested it are treated is a revolutionary act that is already changing the way we tackle both economic and ethical global systems. Plus, it often results in better quality, better-tasting fruit!

So, the next time you shop for fruit, you know what to look out for. Feel free to share this article with your friends and family to educate them on the exponential value of fair trade fruit.

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