Reginaldo Vincentim (Director, COAGROSOL)

16.09.2010 - Interview conducted by Kathleen Vesper

Q1.Fair trade first started with a political agenda and has now also quite a moralistic background. Is that still a dream for fair trading to be truly fair?

It really works. It is not a dream but it is a difficult question. Because if you look at it from one side you can see the change and the big difference that the agreement made between the normal market which is completely capitalistic but of course there are problems as well. But we are in the beginning and we cannot say that it does not work, because that would not be true. It still needs to improve though. There are many critics about fair trade because they think it is not working well but ten years ago we had nothing and now people expect to have a completely perfectly working market. But that is nonsense. But I think that fair trade is a sign to wake people up and make them think about commercial relations. The power is in the consumer’s hand. They need to wake up and think about what do I want to buy cheap and what is worth paying a little more money for.

Q2.You said, fair trading needs improving. What do you think needs to improve for Brazil?

It is important to start some more initiatives in Brazil because when the governor knew that fair trade was going to come, he started an initiative then. That is my view. And for many corporations, especially coffee, the most important product in fair trade, it is really making a difference and also for oranges. But oranges are a particular product. We have companies that dominate the world market and so it is quite difficult to see some improving for the future. And then you have, for example one year when fair trade is good and prices are high and better than the normal market and in another year the local market prices are higher than in fair trade because vendors are fighting each other. So that makes it difficult to sell. Things are improving. People in big city, such as Sao Paulo, understand the concept and I think that in the near future we will have an important fair trade market.

Q3.How is fair-trade connected to ecological farming?

In fair trade there are many environmental criteria and from the eyes of the consumers and producers organic products are more interesting. Because consumers always just think about their life and their health and so are the producers.

Q4.Big firms like Nestlé have entered the fair-trade market. Does that make trading more difficult for other companies?

I think they are important in terms of volumes they can provide but they are not really connected to the concept. Fair trade is just a figure and just marketing a merchandise for a firm like that. They do not know what happened. Where does the product come from? What does the life of a worker look like in that place? And they do not know whether the price they pay for the product truly covers the cost of production. So this is a problem. But this is also the problem of the normal market. They have to ‘kill’ producers to save money.

Q5.The fair-trade certification is a requirement to get grants and financial aid and of course to find trade partners. It is still quite expensive for smaller corporations and is difficult to afford. So how is this fair?

Maybe one option should be that other certificates should be allowed. But that might be difficult. The reach of fair trade is to small producers. There have been talks about it because more and more because big companies, such as Nestlé, sell big volumes and sometimes they do not have organic products. And so they propose to certificate certain plantations but smaller companies focus on their workers. So this is starting to change the original concept. And because of this, it is a bit dangerous to open up the certification process.