“There are some Fair Trade apple and pear producers, but it’s typically a really different business model,” Pobst said. “There’s some interest in obtaining some duel certification with organic, but the business model just doesn’t translate perfectly right now.”
Pobst said she expects more growers to become Fair Trade-certified, but she also expects to see the Fair Trade principles applied differently for various crops.
Another reason more produce companies haven’t jumped into Fair Trade certification has to do with the demand from the marketplace.
Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC has looked into the process but hasn’t yet committed.
“At this point, it’s really just paying to get the certification and have them review our records, so it’s something we haven’t pulled the trigger on because we only have minimal requests right now from retailers,” said vice president of sales Jim Roberts.
Whether they have the certification or not, organic companies agree that there is a lack of consumer education programs.
“Many of the people interested in organic are also interested in Fair Trade, but they may lack some education,” Herrick said.
Consumers can be easily confused as to if all organic products are Fair Trade, or if all Fair Trade products are organic.
Herrick also cites the demand for Fair Trade coffee as an example the produce industry can strive to follow, however the setup will likely be very different.
“Coffee has been a very successful thing,” he said. “It’s been very well received because coffeehouses can focus on that. People go there for one item, and it’s easier to educate consumers and focus on that.”
The produce industry education efforts will be different because of the variety of items offered in the department.
Like any underdeveloped effort, the lack of growth likely stems mostly from one main issue, the lack of funding.
“There needs to be money put toward getting the education program off the ground, and we’re not seeing a lot of that right now,” Herrick said.
And companies say that until Fair Trade produce begins to demand premium pricing to compensate for the higher input costs, it’s not likely to receive such funding.
“Most of the time you can get a little premium for them, but it’s lucky to be 10%,” Herrick said.