FAIRBIOTEA – Sustainable organic tea through development partnerships
An initiative for sustainable, socio-ecological and healthy development of tea production and the tea market.
Fairness and product safety in organic tea cultivation can only be further developed through the permanent commitment of responsible importers and trading companies in partnership with the producers.
Companies must strive responsibly, actively and professionally for sustainable ecological quality management in the tea gardens. However, they must also pay fair and reasonable tea prices, and this applies equally to consumers, so that tea producers can finance the healthy and sustainable development of the tea agriculture. Therefore, sustainability and consumer protection are primarily a matter of sustainable product prices, for which European retailers, consumers and the current world economic system bear responsibility.
Unfortunately, in Europe we are far from meeting this standard. The international economic system has no rules that guarantee producers fair prices and fair treatment.
Hardly any developing country has a statutory labour law, statutory minimum wage regulations or unconditional basic incomes to prevent the exploitation of workers and peasants in the agricultural sector. Furthermore, international agreements on labour rights and minimum social standards, such as those of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), apply only to a few people in agriculture, namely those who work for a company and hold an employment contract.
The privately initiated certification systems for sustainability and welfare such as Fairtrade, UTZ, Rainforest Alliance etc. cannot yet meet their own requirements and therefore are of no help for the producers.
The poorest of the agricultural sector, the smallholders, are considered self-employed and are not protected by the national and international labour rights. They are often subjected to material and social exploitation by local traders, as they have no legal means against them.
The tea that comes from traditional smallholders, which is produced without compliance with regulations, hygiene management and quality management procedures, is incredibly cheap and lowers the international price level, undermines fair competition and disregards humanity.
The tea produced by modern Chinese company farms has to achieve much higher selling prices due to higher production costs, as these farms are subject to national and international labour laws, issue employment contracts to their employees, pay minimum wages, implement hygiene and quality management systems and ensure food safety.
These different production systems create unfair competitive conditions that are for a large part motivated by national interests. With regard to the export price, sustainably produced goods cannot compete with goods that were produced cheaply due to exploitation and rule violation. As a result, the good, sustainably producing manufacturers are also forced to purchase the worse, cheaply produced goods from smallholder tea gardens for export, because their own products are too expensive for Europeans.
The described differences between these two producing methods are not well known in Europe. Among the traders in Europe and worldwide, competition is predominantly won by the cheaply and not the sustainably produced tea. Also among consumers, one can see that the majority tend to buy cheap and worse teas rather than the better and more expensive ones.
The annual, rather superficial, one-day inspections by the third country control bodies, the sustainability certification bodies and the quality management certification bodies alone can hardly uncover violations of regulations or ensure product safety. Experience has shown that certification systems are not capable of detecting and preventing deliberate fraud and exploitation. Under these bad competitive conditions, trickery in complying with regulations is often the only way to work economically.
Fairbiotea wants to close these gaps through development cooperation in the form of long-term development partnerships with selected modern tea producers.
Sustainability for Fairbiotea means a fair, well-balanced relation between ecology, economy and social issues, within the frame of concrete possibilities.
Fairbiotea was initiated by a tea importer, who is not named here for reasons of customer protection and fair competition.
On this website Fairbiotea provides undisguised background information for traders and consumers.