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208. Bill Fishbein for FT4All

Bill Fishbein, co-founder of Coffee Kids and founder of the Coffee Trust, published two comments in response to my recent post on FTUSA’s Fair Trade for All vision that were too good not to run as posts unto themselves.  In the second, which appears below, he suggests that FT4All could generate benefits for smallholder farmers by introducing competition between Fair Trade certifiers.

Comment by Bill Fishbein, originally published on the CRS Coffeelands Blog on 24 October 2011.

Hi Michael,

I’ve been thinking. There are always at least two sides to an argument. So, I’m going to argue with myself for a moment.

The reality is that this is a capital system. And so far, FLO has been pretty much alone in terms of cerifiying fair trade. Well, in a capital economy, a business that has no competition has no incentive to improve itself beyond its own perspective. If Fair Trade USA provides tougher competition for FLO, certification standards could very well improve for both parties and the farmers would benefit from such competition. Of course, that would require both Fair Trade USA and FLO to raise the bar on Fair Trade, not lower it.

Personally, I prefer to go against the prevailing winds of the marketplace. I just don’t trust the fickle market. The lure of short term profits can undermine the even best of efforts. But, like I said, there are always many different ways to look at a situation and there might be something of value to the split after all. But, don’t quote me on that. It could soil my reputation.

All the best,

Bill

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