The Board of Fairtrade International took a major step on March 16 by approving a strategy to launch operations in the USA market, based on extensive consultation and input from USA stakeholders following the departure of Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) from the global Fairtrade system.

The original changes proposed by FTUSA were criticized by USA fairtrade advocates and organizations as being too focused on moving larger volumes, while their new Multiple Ingredients and Single Ingredients product policies did not appear to win much support. Fairtrade International’s strategy has three main components:

* Fairtrade International will create a legal presence in the USA by early April to facilitate use of the international FAIRTRADE Mark in the market there.

* In parallel, Fairtrade will work with stakeholders to design and build an organizational structure which will reflect the needs of the USA market and will represent the diverse group of stakeholders who will contribute to its success. Fairtrade is committed to developing the most appropriate model for the new USA organization and will establish a consultative panel, including representatives of Fair Trade businesses, consumers, civil society organizations, producers and other key stakeholders. This group will help ensure an appropriate structure, good governance, accountability and a strong voice for Fair Trade in the USA.

* In 2012-13, while the operating model is being established, member organization Fairtrade Canada will continue to assist companies who would like to remain part of the global Fairtrade system. Companies interested in using the international FAIRTRADE Mark in the USA, please contact license@fairtrade.ca

“Many of those who took part in our dialogue process voiced that Fair Trade is about more than premium or prices, it’s philosophical. It’s about making a difference in producers’ lives,” said Esther Guluma, Board Chair. “Volume of product sold does not necessarily equal producer impact and we will work to ensure that growth of the system is consistent with greater producer impact and involvement.”

The results of the most recent Globescan study released in late 2011 show that nearly six in ten consumers (57%) across the 24 surveyed countries have seen the FAIRTRADE Certification Mark. Recognition has increased by six points to 65 percent in the 15 main tracking countries since the study was first conducted in 2008. Sixty-four percent of those familiar with the FAIRTRADE Mark associate it with helping farmers and workers in poor countries escape poverty.

Meanwhile Fair Trade USA announced in March, new data revealing that sales of Fair Trade Certified™ products grew a whopping 75% between Q1 and Q4 last year. The data, from SPINS LLC, indicates that sales of Fair Trade Certified products grew fastest in the mass merchant – mainstream grocery, food and drug – channel, which saw a 95 percent increase in Fair Trade Certified product sales in 2011.