Fair Trade USA says its certification program for produce is experiencing big growth and expansion across the country.
The group has a program for fresh American produce called ‘Fair Trade Certified’. The numbers show that there has been strong growth across nearly every source country and product. This has resulted in more than 71.5 million pounds of Fair Trade Certified fresh fruit and vegetables imported in 2011 – that’s a 40 percent increase over 2010.
Fair Trade USA says that 2012 has been shaping up to be even bigger. More than 55 million pounds of Fair Trade Certified produce were imported in the first half of the year – that’s more than the full year of 2010.
The group attributes this to overall growth in the produce category. It helped Fair Trade fresh produce farmers and farm workers to earn nearly $1.8 million in community development premiums in 2011 alone. These premiums are used for projects that support education, healthcare, environment, business management, quality improvement and productivity.
“There’s a lot of momentum right now as retailers start to see positive sales data and ask more of their growers to get Fair Trade Certified,” said Hannah Freeman, Director of Produce and Floral for Fair Trade USA. “They see Fair Trade as a way to invest in the sustainability of their supply chain while giving consumers the traceability they increasingly seek when purchasing fresh produce. It’s like a farmers market gone global.”
The dramatic growth in Fair Trade Certified produce can be explained not only by increasing demand from retailers and consumers, but also by the certification of new produce varieties and farms. In 2010, the only Fair Trade Certified produce items available at supermarkets were bananas, citrus, mangos and pineapples. But between 2011 and 2012, Fair Trade USA has made eight new products available to U.S. consumers with the introduction of new Fair Trade farms in Northern Mexico.
At least four additional fresh products are expected to be imported during the last half of 2012.
Fair Trade Certified bell peppers from Divemex and cucumbers from Divine Flavor hit store shelves for the first time in 2011. In spring 2012, Divine Flavor sold its first Fair Trade Certified table grapes, peaches, seedless watermelon, cantaloupe and roma tomatoes.