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Fairtrade taking off in Hong Kong

At DR Wakefield, one of the central tenets governing all that we do is sourcing and trading the right green coffee at the right price, both by our clients and the farmers at the source of the supply chain, all the while ensuring that the quality remains at an exceptionally high standard.

It would be fair to say that the Fairtrade movement has well and truly established itself here in the UK. Figures from the Fairtrade Foundation for 2012/13 showed that a massive 89 per cent of people trust the Fairtrade logo. In 2012, sales of such products reached £1.5 billion, which represented an 18 per cent increase from the year before.

Meanwhile, around a quarter of all the roasted and ground retail coffee that was sold in 2012 was Fairtrade certified, showing what a mark the standard is leaving on the coffee industry. We can only hope this figure will continue to grow too.

Currently, it is the most widely recognised ethical global label, with Fairtrade produce being sold in more than 125 countries. Nevertheless, there are still some areas of the world where it has yet to take hold as strongly as it has here. 

Now, a recent report in the South China Post has highlighted how the Fairtrade movement is starting to make serious waves in Hong Kong. 

According to a news report, a gentleman called Anthony Chiu Sin-Wing is planning to get it designated as a Fairtrade city by the end of 2017, for which Hong Kong will need to meet five different criteria.

Mr Chui is the founder of a social enterprise called Fair Circle, which both sells Fairtrade products and teaches people about the movement, in a bid to drum up more support for it in this area of the world and promote its implementation. Fair Circle has been running for more than a decade, although it has enjoyed a noticeable surge in influence over the last couple of years or so, as the Fairtrade movement gains traction.

By making more individuals aware of the existence of Fairtrade, Mr Chui hopes to put exploitative middlemen out of business and give farmers and craftsman a fair price for the items they are cultivating or making. He believes that over the last year in Hong Kong, around 1.3 per cent of the population purchased at least one item that came with the Fairtrade seal of approval.

So the idea isn't completely new to this part of the world. In fact, the newspaper reports how it was Oxfam who first introduced Hong Kong to the Fairtrade movement back in 2002, which has seen organisations such as the Fair Trade Hong Kong Foundation crop up. The body is currently in charge of certifying produce both in the city, in Macau and the mainland.

Its executive secretary Daphne Ip Tsz-ying explains how it has become busier since affiliating with Fairtrade International a couple of years ago. "Previously, anyone who had questions had to send them to the head office in Germany, but we can help explain how to set up a Fairtrade shop or how to source products in Chinese and English. In the past six months we've had a lot of queries and had to hire more staff," she said.

However, the aforementioned five criteria Hong Kong will need to meet to become a designated city are: consolidating a panel to oversee a continued commitment to Fairtrade; persuading the Legislative Council to embrace a resolution supporting the Fairtrade cause; seeing Fairtrade items used in and around society, such as in schools and offices; offering a range of free trade products readily available in shops; and having the subject appear readily in the media and enjoying support from individuals.

So far, Hong Kong has ticked the final three boxes on that list, with the city now needing to address consolidating a panel and persuading the Legislative Council in its bid to officially become a Fairtrade city, with the latter of these two final goals reported to be the hardest challenge.

Nevertheless, Mr Chiu is optimistic about his chances. "We have the chief executive election [in 2017] so it may not be so easy to do this, but it's reachable," he told the paper.

The pioneer went on to say that he believes one of the next important steps will be to get consumers more heavily involved by practicing and purchasing in line with Fairtrade standards. Two hurdles that have hindered this in the past have been a lack of such products on shop shelves, with a very limited range of items, and a lack of consciousness over farmers getting a fair price for their efforts.

There is no denying that progress has been made but will he reach his ambition by the end of 2017? Only time will tell.