July 24, 2014 00:00 By PETCHANET PRATRUANGKRAI
IN THE WAKE of rising concern over the treatment of labour, farmers' well-being and the environment in global trading, the International Trade Promotion Department is urging more Thai businesses to seek Fair Trade certification so that their products are
At a seminar on “Fair Trade Mark and trading of Fair Trade products in the international market”, held yesterday by the agency’s Office of News, Overseas Markets Development and Promotion, Duangkamol Jiambutr, deputy director-general of the department, said that only a small number of Thai companies and supply chains currently applied the Fair Trade Mark.
The department will, therefore, continue to support Fair Trade certification by promoting an awareness campaign among Thai manufacturers and exporters, she said.
According to the Netherlands-based Fair Trade Original organisation, about 30 Thai companies and supply chains have received Fair Trade certification to date. This guarantees that they engage in fair treatment of farmers, have good labour conditions, use no forced or child labour, offer fair prices to suppliers, and operate with transparency, accountability and respect for the environment, equity and freedom, and have fair trading practices.
Duangkamol said the department, in cooperation with Fair Trade Original, now had a target of increasing the number of certified businesses and products by 10 per cent a year.
The main goal is to help agricultural and handicraft producers, as well as manufactures and exporters, to achieve better trading conditions and to promote sustainability, she said.
Certified members of the Fair Trade programme will likely be able to leverage the quality of their products for higher prices, with certification ensuring world-class social and environmental standards and more recognition in the international trade area, she added.
Thai export products already using the approved Fair Trade logo include rice, coffee, tea, cane sugar, cotton, fresh fruits, herbs and spices, wickerwork, handicrafts, pottery and ceramics.
The official said the department also would like to encourage businesses in the shrimp and fishery sectors to comply with Fair Trade certification, so that they do not face problems due to unfair labour treatment. Every Fair Trade product is subject to labour-standard checking, she explained.
Manasnan Pongjayavanij, Fair Trade Original’s associate consultant for Thailand, said the overall value of Fair Trade products had increased considerably in the past few years, as consumers now had more awareness about fair trading conditions and the environment.
“Consumers are willing to pay more for Fair Trade goods if they feel they have bought a product whose manufacture is highly responsible to society. Today, prices of Fair Trade products are also very competitive, the same as leading brands. Enterprises should adapt themselves to produce Fair Trade products in order to ensure sustainable growth and access to many markets,” said the consultant.
According to Fair Trade Original, the value of fair trade goods in the global market, excluding the US, rose from €1 billion (Bt42.7 billion) in 1996 to €4.8 billion in 2012. Exports of Thai fair trade products were worth about Bt300 million in 2012.
More than 30,000 products are now on sale in 125 countries, and the global Fair Trade system currently works with over 1.2 million people across 60 countries.
Manasnan said many more Thai products could get the Fair Trade mark. So far, many local brands, such as Doi Chang coffee, plus local producers of soy sauce, chili sauce, pineapples and bananas are well-known for having the mark, which is accepted widely.
Martin Boon, development manager for Fair Trade Original in the Netherlands, told the seminar that with the global market having growing recognition of Fair Trade products, many markets were increasing demand for products carrying the logo – and that Thailand had high potential to serve such worldwide demand.