It’s only Fair

Image from Nestle

Big news – Nestle have announced that as of January 2010, the four finger Kit Kat bar will be certified by the Fairtrade Foundation. Given that the Kit Kat is their biggest seller in the UK, this is huge. Nestle also now have a cocoa plan, whereby they will be systematically looking to help cocoa farmers from the poorest countries improve their living standards. One of the first steps is to pay them a decent price for their cocoa beans.

Although I have issues with big corporations like Nestle (exploitation of cocoa farmers being one of them), I do believe that this is definitely a positive step in the right direction. Fair trade is an issue I feel strongly about, especially when it concerns luxury items such as chocolate and coffee. It blows my mind that workers (including children) can be exploited so that we in the affluent world can scoff down a luxury item like chocolate without any second thoughts (except, perhaps, for our waistlines). That’s inconceivable in my mind.

A couple of years ago, once we became aware of the issues surrounding the exploitation of farmers in developing countries, we made the commitment to buying and consuming only Fairtrade coffee and chocolate. Sure, it’s a little more expensive, but isn’t it worth it to know that the farmers who worked on the cocoa (and sugar cane and coffee bean) plantations a) received a fair price for their labour so that they can use that money to pay for the basic necessities in life that we take for granted such as medical treatment and education and b) that they were not children who should be in school? It’s a no brainer in my mind.

So, good on Nestle for making this positive step. I’m very pleased to see this. I hope that at the very least, it raises awareness of the issues and makes people a little more mindful in their everyday food choices.

PS – for more information about the coffee issues, Black Gold is a must watch. I also highly recommend Fighting the Banana Wars and other Fairtrade Battles by Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation in the UK.

5/1/10 – Edit to add a Peter Singer article on Fair Trade

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