Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Southern Partners and Fair Trade Cooperation (SPFTC), Cebu, Philippines

My recent trip to Cebu to visit SPFT and their member producers was a great insight into how a successful Fair Trade Organisation runs in a country where a vast majority are still unaware of Fair Trade. Yes, the concept is still there: better for the environment, better for the producer, better for the consumer, but this is a general and very obvious switch to meet buyer’s needs in the west. The term “Fair Trade” is still a confusion to many Philippinos and Asians. So I was surprised when I met Ms Gigi and her team at SPFTC, and what a tight nit organisation they ran. With many producers who supply the organisation, and many more that are making a switch to be under the SPFTC title. She has defiantly created a little buzz in Cebu, the second biggest city in Cebu.

SPFTC's Fair Trade Shop, Cebu

So what do SPFTC do, and why are they so prominent in a market sector that is on a steadily growing? SPFTC help small producers in the Southern regions of the Philippines in all matters of things. From community development, to trainings, promotion, finding buyers, product development and packaging. The region of the Visayas, the central region of the Philippines is lush, and is perfect for growing almost anything! Cebu and Bohol are two islands protected by larger islands, and so they are effected less by the typhoons. The Visayas main agricultural produce include: coconuts; mangoes; mascavado sugar; bananas and nuts. So as the West showed more interest in buying Fair Trade products, more producers and farmers wanted help in tapping this market. As the benefits were seen, more wanted to get on board. With the standards of Fair Trade being high, and with there being a lot Fair Trade criteria to meet, the change can take a long time. This is where SPFTC come in.

It is claimed the mangoes from Cebu are the best in the world, and because of this, there has been a massive increase in mango farmers in Cebu. Most of these mangoes get processed into dried mangos, mango puree, and mango juice. To meet large demands from the west, the farmers were spraying their trees. This was something that had been happening for the lat 40-50years, and every year the dosage was being increased. The mango trees were and a large percentage still are under great strain. So SPFTC along with SAFI and the Cebu Fair Trade Network, are working with a select few mango farmers in helping them convert their strained trees to becoming 100% organic. If successful, it will make a massive change to many farmers and be hugely beneficial to the environment. But you can read more about this in a later post.

Dried Mango for the Japanese market

So with Ms Gigi’s help and guidance, I was able to go around the Cebu area visiting small producers and farmers, understanding their trade, how Fair Trade has helped them and their community, and any problems they have… which you will see in future posts. I was lucky enough to have met some amazing people in some beautiful locations doing great work.

Helping with an order of 1500 Banana Chips for Japan

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