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Fairtrade Foundation plays down low wage claims

The Fairtrade Foundation has hit back at newspaper allegations that coffee producers using its label are breaching fair trade principles.

The Financial Times has claimed to have found breaches in Peru, where its investigations suggest coffee with the Fairtrade label is being produced by some labourers paid 10 sols ($3, £1.64) a day, less than the country's legal minimum wage of 11.20 sols, after legally sanctioned deductions for their food and housing costs.

The newspaper says its findings 'cast doubt on the certification process used by Fairtrade and similar marks that require producers to pay the minimum wage'. It also claims the findings 'raise questions about the assurances certifiers give on how premium-priced fair trade coffee is produced'.

However, Fairtrade told EP that breaches must sometimes be expected, and are usually picked up. 'Of course our certification system does find irregularities, which we then take up with the producer group or the trader, but these are only occasionally serious,' it said. 'In extreme cases this can lead to de-certification of the producer or trader if no improvement is made. The system, with its inspections, is specifically designed to pick up and stop such irregularities and that is why the public can feel reassured.'

It points out that 'all groups are working on some improvements or other as this is a development process'.

Fairtrade has said that it will examine the newspaper's allegations, but observed that similar reports it has investigated in the past have subsequently been found to be incorrect.

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