Fairtrade Food: Connecting Producers and Consumers
By C. Wright
In this chapter I analyse the production and consumption of Fairtrade food, both in the context of globalisation and within a tradition of theorising food as both material and symbolic good. I ask what sort of social, ethical, economic, political and cultural connectivities Fairtrade promotes between Southern producers and Northern consumers, and how these relate to one another. Fairtrade coffee is used as a case study to illuminate the discussion, with a particular focus on one UK brand, Cafédirect. I argue that in (partially) defetishizing the commodity, Fairtrade invites consumers to do right by producers and effect modest redistribution. However, Fairtrade's embedding in capitalist markets sees a simultaneous refetishization of the commodity, as new cultural surpluses are generated for consumers. These involve the appropriation and redemption of distant producer lives and landscapes, as well as the commodification of the ethics and politics of Fairtrade itself. The recognition of producers by consumers embodied in a fair price and a fairer trading relationship risks being undercut where producers become the known about object rather than the knowing subject, and is further undermined by producers' lack of ownership and control of a Fairtrade system designed for them but not by them.