Day 42 – Fair Trade Bolivia, FLO style

Day 42 – Fair Trade Bolivia, FLO style

searchFollowing my local quinoa value chain brought me from the Brattleboro Food Co-op to the outskirts of Salinas Bolivia. However this bypassed the Fair trade aspect of production, which as my study progresses and market prices continue to deteriorate, is suddenly becoming critical in the quinoa story.   Right now the non-fair trade market prices for export quality quinoa ranges from 400Bs a quintal for black market conventional to 500Bs a quintal for organically certified product. Some private producer groups are now getting 600Bs to 650Bs a quintal for their certified organic grain as are the Fair Trade Andean Naturals clients (Andean Family Farmers). The extra benefit Andean Family Farmers members receives is the social premium which is paid annually once all export counts are in and amounts to a considerable sum of money (A report on the town of Sau Sau and their FTUSA social premium payment is coming). We visited with Andean Naturals a US business certified by FairTradeUSA and learned of their work with quinoa in Bolivia, but they are just one company exporting a few dozen containers a year of Fair Trade quinoa. What about the rest?

fairTradeLogoThe other Fair Trade story is that of FLO – the Bonn, Germany based Fair Labeling Organization which has recently expanded to include more producer participation, with the arrival of the Latin-American and Caribbean Coordinator of Small Producers and Workers for Fair Trade (CLAC) – an independent group of small farmers who developed their own Fair Trade label that had more rules and self determination than the larger European and US Fair Trade organizations. CLAC works to strengthen institutional bonds, provide networking and communication through its vast membership, promote the values and principles of fair trade through college-based educational campaigns, provide market access, and support programs focused on climate change, food security, child labor, worker security and well-being and intergenerational representation.

The CLAC Latin-American Universities for Fair Trade initiative engages universities with Fair Trade consumption, forms formal alliances between the university and CLAC members, has universities working directly with Fair Trade producers and local Fair Trade initiatives, and requires students groups to help in different Fair trade initiatives such as the Internaitonal Fair Trade Day, research papers on Solidarity Economy, Fair Trade and Responsible Consumption to be published yearly, and requires at least one course a year to be offered in the theme of Solidarity Economy, Fair Trade and Responsible Consumption. Currently, there are no Bolivian universities supporting this initiative though students in Costa Rico, Coluombia and Peru have active campaigns started.

In Bolivia, Tito Medrano, manages much of the Fair Trade training and communication for FLO members. Based out of Cochabamba, he is in constant motion, traveling from coffee mountainsides, to quinoa highlands to FLO’s National Committee for Fair Trade (CNCJ) in La Paz. The CNCJ is headed by El Ceibo, a large 20+ year old cooperative that specializes in organic and Fair Trade cacao (chocolate) production. FECAFEB, the Bolivian Fair Trade coffee exporter, is the secretary and Red OPAIC, a large consortium of Fair Trade handicraft producers, acts as the treasurer. Quinoa was once represented by ANAPQUI, another large, older cooperative, but like many organizations in the FLO network, they lost their certification due to poor bookkeeping during an audit. Now once again re-certified by FLO, ANAPQUI continues to work with Fair Trade and organic quinoa production. The CNCJ holds regular elections and ANAPQUI has held leadership positions in this Committee in the past and most likely will in the future as well.

Market access through FLO is much less centralized then the market access provided by FairTradeUSA, who specializes almost exclusively in the US market and acts as a go-between for US buyers and Fair Trade producers. FLO works with 24 Fair Trade initiatives in areas such as trade show representation and educational consumer campaigns in 19 different countries. Some of the key European trade shows for Bolivia’s Fair Trade products include Germany’s BIOFAT and the Feria de Milan in Italy. European buyers approach Bolivian producers directly through their own in-country visits and arrangements. Because of this, there is no centralized record keeping of quantities and contracts managed through FLO certified producers.