The following edited response came from Abby Ray, a communications associate, media outreach, for Rainforest Alliance, New York City, upon reading the recent Euromonitor study, which posted to Candy Industry’s Sweet & Healthy e-newsletter on March 31.
“Your [write-up of the Euromonitor report] mentions that the Rainforest Alliance certification program does not guarantee a minimum price to workers and is therefore not as strict.
This, of course, perpetuates the myth that only a guaranteed minimum price gets farmers out of poverty and, hence, any scheme not guaranteeing a minimum price is only half decent or ‘semi-ethical.’
A system dependent on price premiums depends on a customer willing to pay them through that system, so what about the farmers who are not so lucky to have such a customer?
We [Rainforest Alliance] are teaching farmers to farm smart, growing their bottom line today, and conserving soil and the natural resources on which their children will depend.
Rainforest Alliance certification takes a different approach, putting the emphasis on improved farming practices rather than on alternative marketing schemes.
The recipe for economic success for any farmer contains four essential ingredients: crop quality, productivity, cost control and sale price. The Rainforest program addresses all four.
The program is a hand up for those who need it, not a hand out. It gives farmers more control over their own futures. It empowers them to be better business people - and to dream of a sustainably successful future.
Higher prices are important, and most farmers in the Rainforest program are getting significantly higher prices for their goods. But farmgate prices are not a panacea. We see many farmers earning high prices and still failing. Successful farmers learn to control costs, increase production, improve quality, build their own competence in trading, build workforce and community cohesion and pride, manage their precious natural resources and protect the environment. A system that improves farm performance will always outperform a system dependent on market prices.
[The report] also states that Rainforest Alliance Certified products are more affordable (and semi-ethical), but products carrying the seal vary from large mainstream brands to small niche chocolatiers - all at varying price points.
The Rainforest Alliance is working with Kraft and Mars, while organizations like Fair Trade are working with Cadbury and Unilever - a multinational corporation, as well - so I don’t think you can really say that either certification is limited to niche markets any longer. If you want to create major change in the world, you need to work with the big players as well as the small ones.”
Reflections on Euromonitor's Report
May 3, 2010