U.S.: fair trade produce imports buoyant in 2012
A release from the third-party certifier highlighted year-on-year growth of 40% in 2011 hitting 71.5 million pounds.
In addition to growth in banana imports, new products including watermelons, bell peppers, cantaloupes, tomatoes and more have been added to the Fair Trade Certified produce mix.
The group attributed the rise not just to increasing demand from retailers and consumers, but also the certification of new produce varieties and farms. Data shows strong growth across nearly every source country and product.
It said in 2010 the only Fair Trade Certified produce items available at supermarkets were bananas, citrus, mangos and pineapples, but between 2011 and 2012 eight new products were made available to U.S. consumers with the introduction of new certified farms in northern Mexico.
The release said growth in this category had meant produce farmers and farm workers earned US$1.8 million in community development programs last year.
These premiums are used for community-elected development projects that support education, healthcare, environment, business management, quality improvement and productivity.
"There’s a lot of momentum right now as retailers start to see positive sales data and ask more of their growers to get Fair Trade Certified," said Fair Trade USA director of produce and floral, Hannah Freeman.
"They see Fair Trade as a way to invest in the sustainability of their supply chain while giving consumers the traceability they increasingly seek when purchasing fresh produce. It's like a farmers market gone global."
The release pointed to a couple of examples to emphasize this change, such as Divemex's move into fair trade bell peppers in 2011 along with Divine Flavor's foray with fair trade cucumbers.
In spring 2012, Divine Flavor sold its first Fair Trade Certified table grapes, peaches, seedless watermelon, cantaloupe and roma tomatoes.
"We decided to get Fair Trade Certified to further improve the lives of workers," said Divine Flavor's Carlos Bon.
"They sacrifice so much to help make our business better that we feel a need to give even more back."
Fair Trade USA also took note of two of Giumarra's growers, Rancho Salazar and Rancho Pablo Borquez, moving into fair trade grapes, asparagus and watermelons, as well as Wholesum Family Farms's offering of fair trade organic tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini and bell peppers.
Other new Fair Trade fresh produce products include honeydew melons and mini-watermelons.
Photo: Fair Trade USA