With growing food and energy prices worldwide, it may be surprising to hear that some consumers are willing to pay more for certain food products. This is the case in the United Kingdom where sales of fairly traded products have beaten the trend of decline in the retail market and have grown by 12 percent this past year. Fairtrade products have higher prices than normal food products but in return consumers feel socially responsible as Fairtrade goods are marked with higher environmental standards. Perhaps more importantly, these fairly traded food products ensure that producers in developing countries are paid properly for their hard work while also promoting better trading conditions between global businesses.

Unlike other premium market sectors such as organic food, which have lost ground as consumers struggle with rising prices and stagnant incomes, the Fairtrade market has actually continued to expand. This continued expansion largely reflects a move among major supermarkets to sell Fairtrade goods in greater quantities and near the same price as conventionally produced equivalents. Many commodities encompass the Fairtrade product line including fresh fruit, cocoa, coffee, tea, and sugar. The United Kingdom is the largest market for these fairly traded products backed by support from trade unions and the Fairtrade Towns campaign. In the United Kingdom alone there are more than 4,500 licensed Fairtrade products and sales have been growing steadily.

Despite this solid growth in the United Kingdom, the Fairtrade market has yet to overcome many of the challenges that it faces. Currently, less than one percent of all food and drink sales worldwide are certified as fairly traded. If the Fairtrade market wants to experience stable global growth, this number would have to dramatically increase. There have also been criticisms of the Fairtrade movement for exaggerating its potential to help poorer countries develop. These critics also claim that the Fairtrade model is not a viable long-term strategy for development in poorer countries.

With these challenges in place, the Fairtrade sector certainly has challenges to overcome. However, if consumers continue to buy Fairtrade goods, sales will also grow leading to good news for the Fairtrade market. The fate of Fairtrade products may very well be in the hands of consumers. Do you think Fairtrade products provide a lasting solution for producers in developing countries and will the Fairtrade sector continue to grow?

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