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Who decides what is fair in fair trade? The agri-environmental governance of standards, access, and price

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  • Bacon, Christopher M.
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    Abstract

    The agri-environmental governance of value chains can favour a Polanyian double movement seeking social protection and control over price setting markets or it can advance a neoliberal logic that strives to overcome the few remaining civic and ecologic obstacles to full market dominance. Coupled with a typology that contrasts corporate social responsibility and social economy Fair Trade models, this theoretical framework elucidates positions in the current policy debates about the minimum coffee price standard. Many Southern smallholders consider Fair Trade's standards, which for coffee include direct market accesses for smallholder cooperatives, minimum prices, and environmental criteria, among the best deals available. The smallholder empowerment benefits are often better than competing eco-labels. However, this study finds that Fair Trade minimum prices lost 41 percent of their real value from 1988 to 2008. Despite objections from several 'market driven' firms and national labelling initiatives, smallholders' collective advocacy and this research contributed to the Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International's (FLO) decision to mandate a 7-11 percent minimum price increase. The price debates demonstrate that Fair Trade governance is neither purely neoliberal nor social movement led - it is a highly contested socially embedded practice. Voices without votes, North-South inequalities, and dwindling prices paid to its stated protagonists indicate the need for governance reform, cost of living price adjustments, and additional investment in the innovative alternative trade and hybrid models.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, UC Santa Cruz in its series Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, Working Paper Series with number qt8px4f62v.

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    Date of creation: 01 Jan 2010
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    Handle: RePEc:cdl:glinre:qt8px4f62v

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    Web page: http://www.escholarship.org/repec/cgirs/

    Related research

    Keywords: fair trade; eco-labels; environmental and agricultural governance; standards; sustainability; Social and Behavioral Sciences;

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    1. Bacon, Christopher, 2005. "Confronting the Coffee Crisis: Can Fair Trade, Organic, and Specialty Coffees Reduce Small-Scale Farmer Vulnerability in Northern Nicaragua?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 497-511, March.
    2. Barrientos, Stephanie & Dolan, Catherine & Tallontire, Anne, 2003. "A Gendered Value Chain Approach to Codes of Conduct in African Horticulture," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(9), pages 1511-1526, September.
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    Cited by:
    1. Hallie Eakin & Catherine Tucker & Edwin Castellanos & Rafael Diaz-Porras & Juan Barrera & Helda Morales, 2014. "Adaptation in a multi-stressor environment: perceptions and responses to climatic and economic risks by coffee growers in Mesoamerica," Environment, Development and Sustainability, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 123-139, February.
    2. Balineau, Gaëlle, 2013. "Disentangling the Effects of Fair Trade on the Quality of Malian Cotton," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 241-255.
    3. Lindsay Naylor, 2014. "“Some are more fair than others”: fair trade certification, development, and North–South subjects," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 273-284, June.
    4. Shannon Sutton, 2012. "Add Producers and Stir? (Re) politicizing Fairtrade participation," Working Papers 38, Queen Mary, University of London, School of Business and Management, Centre for Globalisation Research.
    5. Darryl Reed & Bob Thomson & Ian Hussey & Jean-Frédéric LeMay, 2010. "Developing a Normatively Grounded Research Agenda for Fair Trade: Examining the Case of Canada," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 92(2), pages 151-179, April.

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