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Fair Trade USA Sponsored Series

The Future of Fair Trade

Numi Tea Brings Fair Trade to Madagascan Turmeric Farmers

By Fair Trade USA

This is part of a series on "The Future of Fair Trade," written with the support of Fair Trade USA. A 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, Fair Trade USA is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. To follow along with the rest of the series, click here.

By Brian Durkee of Numi Organic Tea

A member of the ginger family, turmeric has caught the attention of wellness practitioners and health enthusiasts for centuries. Given its culinary versatility and medicinal properties (not to mention its vibrant color!), it’s no wonder that we are seeing the root become a mainstay of diets around the world. People are turning to turmeric, and we are excited to do the same.

With its innumerable health benefits, we knew that we wanted to incorporate turmeric into a brand new tea collection at Numi Tea. We wanted tastes that would complement the earthy/robust flavor of the root; we wanted profiles that would mirror the vibrancy of the spice; we wanted a tea collection that highlighted the wonder of turmeric. And, perhaps most importantly, we wanted our new tea line to be on-par with the sustainable practices that are the foundation of all of our blends. All in all, we wanted to utilize a turmeric that was Fair Trade Certified.

One year ago today, however, there was a very limited supply of Fair Trade Certified turmeric on the market. We found ourselves faced with two options: develop a line of turmeric teas that were not certified Fair Trade, or help an existing turmeric farm become certified. As you can probably imagine, the second option won our hearts.

In early 2013, we worked with our partners to find an incredibly high-quality turmeric. They had recently helped a farm group in Madagascar become certified in growing organic turmeric – and it was the best turmeric they had ever seen. After a few conversations with both parties, we decided that we had found our turmeric. “This turmeric is perfect,” we told the farm group in Madagascar, “but we would like to take this to the next level and help you get Fair Trade Certified.”

The process of Fair Trade Certification happens in roughly five steps:

  1. The farm applies for certification

  2. The application is reviewed

  3. An audit takes place on the farm

  4. The audit documentation is reviewed

  5. Certification is either granted or not

To help this turmeric farm in Madagascar through these steps, Numi Organic Tea helped fund the process. We contributed thousands of dollars that went not only towards the cost of certification fees, but also toward the tools and equipment they needed to get their farm up to the right level.

We are thrilled to say that the Madagascar farm group received Fair Trade Certification in early 2014, and that Numi is the first brand to purchase organic, Fair Trade Certified turmeric from them. The group (which has nearly 130 members working directly with turmeric) is part of a larger co-operative comprised of several village clans, totaling approximately 400 members. This group, 130 members, is now both organic and Fair Trade Certified.

So, why does this matter? Besides helping to meet our standards of producing a socially responsible product, why is it important that Numi took the steps to help get this farm Fair Trade Certified?

First and foremost, Fair Trade Certification helps improve the lives and the workplace environments of workers. The certification guarantees fair conditions, and helps empower the community that is directly connected to the farm. Alongside each Fair Trade Certified good is something known as a “Fair Trade premium.” This premium is an additional cost that purchasers (such as Numi) pay for Fair Trade Certified goods. These premiums go directly to the farm groups themselves, where usage is decided upon democratically.

In the case of turmeric, the premium is quite high (around 15 percent of the market price). This is two to three times higher than the premiums that are paid for most tea and herbs! What does this mean? This means that for each pound of turmeric that a farm produces, we pay approximately 85 cents more than the market price. That “extra” money is given directly to the farms, who vote democratically on how it will be used. In the case of our turmeric partners, they intend to use the money to improve their current drinking infrastructures. With nearly 1 billion people without access to clean water, this is something about which we are very passionate!

With this new partnership, Numi has helped expand the Fair Trade Certified products that are available on the market, which increases the number of sources and resonates globally. This turmeric farm group in Madagascar will continue to use Fair Trade premiums to help better their unionized co-op, and plan to add 100 turmeric farmers in the next year.

We will continue working to identify new Fair Trade opportunities in our industry, as we are always looking for ways to bring sustainable, socially responsible and Fair Trade Certified products to the market.

Images courtesy of Fair Trade USA

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Fair Trade USA is a nonprofit organization that is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. Fair Trade USA audits and certifies transactions between U.S. companies and their international suppliers to guarantee that the farmers and workers producing Fair Trade Certified goods were paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment, and receive community development funds to empower and uplift their communities. 

Read more stories by Fair Trade USA