News and insight for North America's fresh produce buyers
Gill McShane


Wednesday 21st July 2010, 07:14 Central Time

Whole Foods supports Haitian growers

US food retailer ramps up Fairtrade-certified mango programme from Haiti as country gets back on its feet

Whole Foods supports Haitian growers
Karen Christensen of Whole Foods with two Haitian women from a Fairtrade mango cooperative

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Whole Foods Market and its supply chain partners are working overtime to buy as many Fairtrade mangoes as possible during the short season this year in an effort to support the earthquake-stricken country.

A delegation partners from the retailer together with Tropic Trade and TransFair USA travelled to Haiti in May to see whether Fairtrade-certified mangoes, supplied as part of the Whole Trade program, could play a small role in the country’s recovery.

During the visit, the team met the growers, field agents and exporters behind the supply of Fairtrade-certified mangoes to the US, according to Transfair USA.

According to Hannah Freeman, TransFair USA’s Director of Produce, something as simple as buying a Fairtrade mango can make a difference in Haiti where mango trees are one of the few species of trees still standing.

“As family members return home to the countryside, there is more pressure on the family food supply, and more pressure to cut down trees to fill empty stomachs today,” Ms Freeman wrote in her blog.

“But cutting down those trees leads to greater hunger in the future since mangoes are often the primary source of cash income for these families.

“If farmers can resist cutting down their trees for charcoal, they are temped yet again by middlemen that offer to buy their entire harvest up front for cash, months before the harvest, but at a tiny fraction of its value.”

And, that’s where the Fairtrade programme comes in, she says; since it ensures a fair return to farmers and a premium to be used for community development projects of the producers’ choosing, such as helping children to continue their studies.

In the case of Haitian mangoes, Ms Freeman said growers also received part of the premium as a bonus just before Christmas, based on how many mangoes each one had sold to the association earlier that year.

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