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Products added to Fair Trade item list in U.S. market

by Brian Gaylord | February 09, 2009
TransFair USA, based in Oakland, CA, has opened channels for all Fair Trade- certified products to be marketed in the United States. The move, which became effective Jan. 22, comes at the prompting of importers and greatly broadens opportunities for Fair Trade growers around the world.

TransFair USA is the only independent third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States.

From a fresh fruit standpoint, Fair Trade-certified mangos, bananas and table grapes previously were approved in the United States. Now, pineapples, oranges, lemons, limes, mandarin oranges, avocados, apples, pears and plums are open to certifying as well. Fair Trade-certified fresh vegetables, dried fruit, fruit juices and purees will soon follow.

Fair Trade-certified roses and carnations currently are coming into the United States, but more flowers, such as calla lilies, Alstroemeria and new varieties of roses and carnations, will follow under the new initiative, said Kazuko Golden, floral and wine account manager for TransFair USA.

TransFair USA first certified flowers for the U.S. market in late 2007. Fair Trade mango imports into the United States began in 2004, while table grape imports followed more recently.

Beyond fresh produce, Fair Trade cocoa, coffee, honey, rice, sugar, tea, wine grapes, vanilla, nuts and oilseeds, quinoa, herbs and spices, and soybeans and pulses (edible seeds of certain pod-bearing plants) are allowed into the United States. Sports balls - such as soccer balls - are allowed in, as well.

"This expansion will allow TransFair USA to meet the growing industry and consumer demand for diversified Fair Trade-certified products and also enable more farmers and workers to reap the benefits of the Fair Trade system," said Katie Barrow, public relations manager for TransFair USA.

As one of the 21 international labeling initiatives that work in partnership with Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International, TransFair USA has historically certified and promoted only some of the Fair Trade products for which FLO has set product-specific standards, Ms. Barrow said.

Marissa Hockenberry, national accounts manager for TransFair USA, told The Produce News that the first of the newly Fair Trade-certified fresh produce items to make it into U.S. markets are avocados, which are selling in New York, Pennsylvania and New England.

Ms. Barrow said that Earth Source Trading Inc. (a subsidiary of Four Seasons Produce Inc.) began importing Fair Trade-certified avocados in November. The avocados are produced by a cooperative of small growers in Mexico whose average farm size has fewer than 20 acres, she said.