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Fair-trade products becoming popular

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Fair-trade products are becoming popular in the Czech Republic. The revenues from goods, which are produced in third world countries in a “fair way” almost double each year. “According to our estimates, this year’s revenues on this market segment will be around CZK 50 million,” says Lenka Černá from Excellent Plzeň, the biggest importer of Fair Trade products in the Czech Republic. Besides this company, there are four other distributors in ČR.

The Fair Trade certification mark is a symbol of the so-called fair business. It strives to support the development of agriculture in third world countries, fights against child and slave labour and propagates environmental protection.

Fair Trade products worth more than EUR 2.5 billion are sold all over the world every year. These products include especially food, such as chocolate, dried fruits, coffee, and honey, which are produced by farmers mainly from African and Latin American countries. International non-profit organizations ensure that farmers and producers receive helpful and respectful treatment on the market, for example, by guaranteeing trading relationships and favourable purchasing prices in advance, among other things.

It has become a rule that every year Czech customers are more and more interested in Fair Trade products. They spent a record of CZK 27 million for the products with black-and-blue-and-green logo last year, some CZK 17 million more than in 2006. A similar increase is also expected this year. Retailers note that Fair Trade goods are becoming more popular and so the number of stores, where such goods are available, is quickly growing.

In October, also for example, Makro Cash & Carry, dm drogerie or Eurest restaurants started offering Fair Trade products. These goods have been available for some time now in Ahold group supermarkets, in Country life health-food stores or in Marks & Spencer stores, which have been including more and more food products in their portfolio.

This is no way to save money

Because of the way Fair Trade products are produced and distributed in grocery stores, they belong in the more expensive category. For example, a Fair Trade chocolate bar or a 250g package of coffee cost around CZK 50 and CZK 100, respectively.

Although with the onset of the financial crisis sales are generally dropping and customers tend to spend less, Fair Trade products are not affected by the trend of saving despite their higher prices. For example Makro Cash & Carry is satisfied with the amount of sales of Fair Trade products, and so the supermarket chain Tesco Stores is considering including “fair products” in its offer. “Our surveys say customers are interested in these products,” Tesco’s spokeswoman Eva Karasová says.

It’s about principles, not prices

“From our experience, the decision to support Fair Trade is not dependent on an individual’s or a company’s wealth. It is a matter of principles and education. A person who buys Fair Trade chocolate wants to be sure that the cocoa it contains was not harvested by children in western Africa. The support of Fair Trade is a matter of lifestyle, which gets into your blood,” says Lenka Černá, adding that her company plans to approach bigger companies with their offer of “Fair Trade packages”.

The market research company GFK Praha says that from the point of view of Czech consumers, Fair Trade products belong in the category of the so-called available luxury. “This category has been growing significantly in the past two years. Although such luxury is available to everybody, it is well-informed people with defined ideas and attitudes who are interested in it,” GFK Praha’s general director Ondřej Tomas says.

The most common consumers of Fair Trade products are people with high school education or a university degree, who are of working age and have higher incomes. “Also more women than men buy Fair Trade goods,” Ondřej Tomas adds.

Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.

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