Fair trade movement adds cotton to French list

6th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 6 (AFP) - Building on the success of its fair trade label for food, plants and flowers, the Max Havelaar Foundation will certify cotton in France, aiming to eventually cover the entire sector to finished products.

PARIS, March 6 (AFP) - Building on the success of its fair trade label for food, plants and flowers, the Max Havelaar Foundation will certify cotton in France, aiming to eventually cover the entire sector to finished products.

The "guaranteed equitable cotton" label on a pair of socks marked a first for the Swiss-based non-profit organisation that already vouches for 12 other items from bananas and chocolate to fruits, plants, rice, sugar and tea.

The cotton is grown, picked and sold in conditions that guarantee a fair price for associated producers and their workers.

From 3,300 at present, the next season should see 20,000 producers benefit from the fair trade label in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali and Senegal.

Twenty one million people live from the cotton industry in central and western Africa.

"Beyond a minimum price, it is a question of encouraging producers to take control of their own development," Victor Feffeira, director of Max Havelaar France, told a press conference Thursday.

Fair trade cotton sells for almost double that produced under normal circumstances.

Last year, French fair trade sales overall nearly doubled to EUR 70 million (USD 92 million) from EUR 37 million in 2003.

In Britain, a 51-percent rise was recorded from GP 92 million (EUR 135 million) in 2003 to GBP 140 million (EUR 203 million) in 2004.

While a worldwide figure is not to be available until April, the Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO) based in Bonn, Germany said that from 2002 to 2003 the value of fair trade had increased by 42.3 percent.

In France, eight clothing and distribution groups have signed on to the cotton process, including catalogue retailer La Redoute, socks company Kindy and sportswear group Eider.

Max Havelaar now wants to move along the production chain and certify spinners, weavers and clothing makers "to have true fair trade textiles".

It acknowledged the task was "complex" however, because in addition to the number of intermediaries, "we are dealing with countries where it is difficult to organise controls."

High on the list was China, the biggest consumer, importer and producer of cotton.

The effort is nonetheless worthwhile because a fair trade label "protects French industry since we can spin and produce cotton in France," said Guillaume Dassonville, commercial director of the household linen firm Hacot Colombier.

Fair trade is backed by the foreign affairs ministry, a business development centre that aids small companies from Asian-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) countries, and the state group DAGRIS which advises African cotton growers.

In Britain, "millions" of people were now choosing to buy products with the fair trade mark, said Helen Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation.

Coffee continued to be the biggest fair-trade seller there last year, with the estimated retail value of sales growing 44 percent to GBP 49.3 million (EUR 71.5 million).

"More is being spent on the core products such as coffee, tea, bananas and chocolate, while the newer products which include flowers, wines, oils and footballs have also been very successful," the foundation said.

The British government has announced it would give the Fairtrade Foundation GBP 750,000 (EUR 1.088 million) over the next three years to help bring more fair-trade products on to the market.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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