Fairtrade Stories – Philippine Cane

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Nearly half of the sugar produced in the Philippines come from Negros island. The island of farmland is owned by large landowners and large estates. Farmers, in the production chain in a relatively unequal position, are employed as agricultural workers from generation to generation. They become more impoverished during International sugar prices plunged during 1980. Forty percent of local households living below the poverty line, in other words, per capita annual income of less than two thousand Hong Kong dollars. In 1986 Negros Island implement land reformation, land ownership in big landlords are handed to the hands of small farmers, the situation turned better and create space for fair trade development.

“With fair trade, my family’s life has been greatly improved!” 42-year-old sugarcane Cardinale (Dina Mansayon), the members of a public MIARBA farmers’ organizations in the village, share with us. This organization have 82 peasant members and own 37 acres of land. They grow sugarcane under the international fair trade organization Fairtrade International certification system. What is fair trade? Farmers feel embarrassed that they can’t interpret.  “Fair Trade improve our income” “Sucrose in fair trade is a organic and high quality. Some international fair trade organizations also assign some representative to review it every year!” “Formerly we do the same work in the field, men earn a day 100 pesos (HK $ 1 = 5.45 pesos), but a woman only 80 pesos. With fair trade, the men and women heve equal pay. ”

The company that Introduce to MIARBA fair trade production is a local fair trade organization called Alter. Alter Trade is certified by international fair trade organizations fair trade to produce cane sugar, set up sugar refinery, packing center, market promotion and marketing department. Currently, Alter Trade cooperate with Negros island’s 19 farmers’ organizations (of 950 sugarcane) to establish a fair trade relations  sucrose farmers to sell fair trade sucrose to Italy, Belgium, Japan and Korea.

Alternative business model change farmer lives!

There is no way for smallholder to contact with other buyers. They have no choice but to sell to large sugar factory. However, they don’t have bargaining power and the selling price is always squeezed by large factory. Even worst, the purchase price was only 10 pesos per kilogram,  The profit only allows farmers spend on the transport and basic expenses. Thanks to the influx of imported sugar, to make a purchase price of sugar fluctuate. Low income and unstable profit cause problem in nutrition and clothing. They used to live in bamboo houses  and fear in storm struck, let alone feeling safe and warm.

In the Fair Trade certification system, the purchase price is determined by the farmers’ organizations and representatives of Alter Trade deliberation, take  the development of production costs and wages into consideration, and make the trading relationship stable and equitable.  The current fair purchase price is 16.66 pesos per kilogram. Fair prices not only have to give farmers a more reasonable and stable income, farmers’ organizations will also transfer some of the profit to “Community guarantee” , There is collective decision by the organization on how to use in order to improve community facilities and productivity.

Directly benefit in individuals and communities

“Because of the fair trade, income increased in growing sugarcane, we also built a new house in the year before! In the past, even if we didn’t feel well, it take us two hours to reach the nearest clinic. Thefarmer organizations last year set up a health center in the village!” have received basic training in first aid and acupuncture.I become medical staff for consultation, on the other hand i can get part of the consultation fee from health centers. “I am very pleased to be one more source in income! ” Next, farmers’ organizations wish to use fair trade income to build a kindergarten in the village.

“We really do not want to see children go to school by walking 3.5 kilometers, then walk 3.5 kilometers to home. Now, my youngest daughter go to school every day in this way. We hope that more people know Fairtrade and buy our sugar. Let our livelihoods can be improved, so that our communities can be improved. “Christina said sincerely.