For the last few decades, the world has seen a rapid expansion in global trade. This ‘trade’ can be deceiving however: In the 1970’s trade did mean buying and selling goods that were owned and produced in different regions and countries.
But in the 1980’s and 1990’s trade took on a new meaning as companies expanded beyond national borders, and began to produce their products in developing countries where they could exploit lower costs; saving money in wages, and regulatory standards.
In its most extreme form, the exploitation of developing countries need for foreign capital and economic investment has resulted in the creation of economic phenomena such as export processing zones, which are reputed to be rife with human, and labour rights violations, poor regulatory environments, and virtually no environmental standards. However, these problems are not limited to these ‘zones’.
Some call it slavery, and for those who measure it in these terms, slavery may arguably be more pervasive today than it was 300 years ago.
There is an alternative to this exploitative path towards economic growth. Fortunately the concept is catching on quickly enough to find that fair trade markets boasting growth rates far in excess of traditional markets; although quite a bit smaller in terms of their total dollar value.
Fair trade, is trade that is characterized by a few basic principles: Paying workers a fair wage for their work, ensuring respectable labour standards, establishing stable commodity prices (which is very helpful to farmers) and reducing the number of ‘middle-men’ involved in trade, where most of the profit goes in traditional trade structures.
Grenada, as a small nation has many assets that could embrace the fair trade market. Many farmers still use traditional, non-mechanized (and therefore labour intensive) farming practices, pesticide use is still quite limited and organic farming is widely practiced. Heritage seeds are still in the possession of farmers, which means that farmers are not dependant on buying seed every year.
Artisans have a wealth of resources to develop craft, such as soaps, candles, spice, art, sculpture and more.
Items like these, which foster fair wages and prices for the producer, and protect the environment, are becoming increasingly popular in the northern consumer markets. There are markets for things like the organic chocolate that is produced by the Grenada Chocolate Factory, for the soaps produced by Caribbean Naturals, and the natural insect repellants and colognes made by Arawak Islands.
With these examples in mind, Grenada arguably already has a fair trade market, which if successfully marketed overseas offer limitless potential as an export market for Grenada, while also offering other benefits that promote domestic economic stability.