Fair Trade Certified

Throughout the World, thousands of vineyards and wine producers specialize in the production of a wide variety of wines with unique flavours. However, increasing trade liberalization affects many small growers. They frequently cannot compete with large corporations and are forced to withdraw from the international market.

There are currently Fair Trade Certified wine producer organizations in South Africa, Argentina, and Chile. Just as each country produces its unique grape varieties and blends, producers in these three countries also face unique economic, social and political challenges.

Small family farmers cultivating wine grapes in Argentina and Chile are susceptible to low market prices which do not generate enough income to meet their family’s basic needs. This limits their opportunity to invest in improving farming systems, lowers productivity, and threatens their livelihood. Fair Trade certification ensures that farmers are able to cover their costs of production, supporting grape growers to maintain ownership of their farms against the pressure of large business competitors.

For vineyard workers in South Africa, the legacy of apartheid has meant limited opportunities for economic advancement. The development of the wine industry was dependent on slave labour. A special set of Fair Trade guidelines for South Africa has been implemented to support post-apartheid economic empowerment.

Large wine plantations depend very heavily on hired labour, and rely on seasonal labour during the grape harvest. As a result, there are many temporary labourers working on wine plantations. In fact, almost 4/5 of workers on South African wine farms are seasonal.

Without adequate labour protection, hired labourers in the South often endure poor working conditions and are not protected from labour abuses. Farm workers are frequently excluded from decision-making structures and are offered no special provisions for accessing health, transportation, and/or educational services. 

Small farm co-operatives also struggle. Many marginalized growers harvest their wine without knowing if they will manage to sell their crops at a price above production costs. These conditions, and the overall dynamics of the industry, are causing more and more small producers to move away from wine harvesting.

Small farmers' co-operatives and plantations that produce Fair Trade certified wine and wine grapes are guaranteed a minimum price to cover the costs of sustainable production, as well as a premium to invest in social and economic initiatives in their communities. Wine and wine grapes are produced on plantations and on small farm co-operatives. For this reason, Fair Trade has established standards for wine grapes production for both plantations and small farmer organizations.

Standards for wine plantations:

  • Salaries must be equal to or higher than the regional average or minimum wage in effect.
  • A Joint Body of workers, advisors and management is responsible for managing the Fair Trade Premium.
  • Forced labour and child labour of children under 15 years old is prohibited. Children aged 15 and above are protected from work that compromises their health or education.
  • Workers have freedom of association and collective agreements, including the right to establish or join an independent union, elect advisors and design their own programs.
  • Health and safety measures must be established.

Fair Trade standards for wine co-operatives:

  • Producers are small family farms organized in co-operatives (or associations) which they own and govern democratically.
  • Co-operatives reinvest the Fair Trade premium into development projects according to their community’s needs.

There are two geographical belts where grapes are grown, one at latitude 30-50 degrees North and the other at 30-40 degrees South. The flavour and quality of a wine is very dependent on the environmental and farming conditions in which its grapes were grown, as well as the method of processing and fermentation. There are several varieties of wine, including red wine, white wine, rose wine, sparkling wine, and alcohol-free wine.

The Canadian wine industry, although still modest, is growing quickly. In recent years, some Canadian wines have won international awards. A third of all wine consumed in Canada is domestic production, and the rest is imported from abroad, particularly South America and Africa. If you choose to drink imported wine, why not choose Fair Trade? Fair Trade Certified wine was first available in Canada in 2007.

Manitoba Liquor Mart is committed to Fair Trade wines. Manitobans can enjoy the largest selection of Fair Trade wines of any liquor jurisdiction in Canada with over 20 wines available from Chile, Argentina and South Africa.

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