It’s been a busy week in relation to ethical sourcing, with our 2009 IMO certification for China green teas being completed and preparations for an Ethical Tea Partnership meeting taking place. This has made me thoughtful on the relevance of fair trade certification in the tea trade at the moment, and what it means to people looking for tea in a shop or online.
We had long discussions about the importance of fair trade certification a few years ago, as JING had long been a member of the Ethical Tea Partnership but had not looked into certifiying any farms, given that our regular visits means we were happy with the conditions and our farmers were happy with the price that we paid for our teas.
Certification itself is not an easy feat, particularly in China and India where resistance to inspections by local government can often been found and the cost in certification can be extremely high. However, I think it’s extremely important to pursue this and everyone at JING agreed. This is why we helped one of our key farmers to achieve certification last year, and you will hopefully see our list of fair trade certified teas growing over time. I hope that most people would be happy to spend a few more pence on a packet of tea, to ensure that the farmers who made it were paid fairly and worked in safe conditions. However, in an economic crisis, perhaps cost will be more important than ever when shoppers are choosing what to buy. Fair trade may be a luxury for which the great majority are unwilling to pay. I have noticed that products in shops often state that they are ‘fairly traded’ on packaging, but are not certified. Perhaps a logo on a packet of tea doesn’t have a big effect on people’s choice of tea, bananas or t-shirt, but I hope that ethical trade will continue to be important to many people in the future.