The industry is currently entering a new era of consumer consciousness. Shoppers are looking not only at taste, price, and convenience, but also at new criteria like organics, sustainability, and Fair Trade. Freska Produce International, LLC. is one company that is diving head-first into consumer needs with its commitment to Fair Trade. At the moment, all but one of the company’s growers are Fair Trade Certified, and the one that isn’t is set to be certified by the end of the season. Gary Clevenger, Managing Principal, talked to me about the importance of Freska’s Fair Trade Certification.
“The basics of Fair Trade is to give farmers, growers, employees, and packers what they deserve in the form of better prices for their goods, a sustainable working environment, and a good, safe working environment,” said Gary. “This will all hopefully elevate the standard of living for those working on our products. This is good for everybody and something everybody should get behind.”
The Fair Trade USA Certification ensures that rules are followed to create a better workplace environment and protect workers’ rights. Some elements it investigates are the use of under-age labor, fair treatment and wages for employees, and the availability of a direct phone number to call Fair Trade if workers feel they are being mistreated in any way.
Freska has made major inroads in converting its operations to Fair Trade. Last season, nearly all of the company’s growers were Fair Trade certified, save for one grower who had already begun packing, leaving insufficient time in the season to do the audit. This season, however, the remaining grower will be getting certified the last week in February, after which, all of the company’s Mexico growers will officially be certified Fair Trade.
With increasing concerns about how we grow our food, retailers and consumers alike are becoming more invested in quality and sustainability, as well as certifications that denote products as being fairly sourced.
“Retailers are already taking note of Fair Trade Certified importers—this makes sense to get involved as it shows the retailer cares about worker rights and social responsibility,” commented Gary. “I would be very surprised to not see this as a main stream requirements from all retailers very soon.”