The structure of fair trade

In Belgium, the main actors in the field of fair trade are Magasins du Monde Oxfam (in the Walloon part of the country) and Oxfam Wereldwinkels (in the Flemish part). They are involved in importing, wholesaling and retailing. Next to these two there is the (Dutch) Fair Trade Organisatie, active in the field of wholesaling, and Miel-Maya Honing and Balam, both small importers/wholesalers.

Around 300 world shops and several hundreds of supermarkets, belonging to the eight major chains of supermarkets in Belgium, sell fair trade products.

Oxfam world shops employ 32 persons in the Flemish and 10 in the Walloon region.

Max Havelaar, the fair trade mark organization in Belgium, employs 3 persons. Max Havelaar coffee is used by 10 commercial roasters and the 3 fair trade organizations Magasins du Monde Oxfam, Oxfam Wereldwinkels and Fair Trade Organisatie.

The products are mainly sold through the world shops and supermarkets, and to a very limited extent through individual stores such as groceries.

The world shops play a very active role in providing information and raising political awareness. Also marketing is being taken up: training of world shop staff in the field of marketing has shown a remarkable effect on sales in these shops.

The market for fair trade

Total retail turnovers for world shops in Wallon were 1.6 million ECU (1994) and in Flanders 6.5 million ECU.

Public awareness of fair trade is estimated to range between 60 and 70%, while 17% of the population are willing to buy fair trade coffee.

Retail prices of fair trade products are somewhat higher than those of comparable non fair trade products, but the price differences are said to be smaller than in the other European countries. Coffee is about 15 to 20% more expensive, but handicrafts can be cheaper. The most successful world shops seem to be located in medium-sized towns, where people do their day-to-day shopping in a number of different shops. The average customers are women, 20-45 years old, with secondary or higher education, employed in the social sector with an above average income (but often below their level of education).

The main products sold are: coffee, wine, honey, textiles, chocolate and nuts. Coffee is the most important product in terms of turnover, with a wholesale value of 1.6 million ECU, followed by wine, worth 700,000 ECU in 1993.

There is a tendency towards providing more information and education, especially to young people, and paying increasing attention to lobbying.

A steady growth can be observed in fair trade in Belgium, both in terms of points of sale and in turnover.

The growth in turnover of Max Havelaar coffee approximates 10% per year.

Table 1: The structure of fair trade in Belgium
import organizations: 2
wholesale organizations: 5
   world shops 200
   supermarkets 8 chains
points of sale: several hundred
staff: 40
trademarks: Max Havelaar
retail channels:
   mail order yes
   individual fair trade stores yes
   chains of fair trade stores yes
   individual commercial stores no
   commercial chains yes
budgets for education & PR: -
Table 2: The market for fair trade in Belgium
wholesale turnover:
   coffee by Oxfam (Flanders & Wallon,1994) 1.6 million ECU
retail turnover:
   world shops in Flanders 6.5 million ECU
   world shops in Wallon 1.6 million ECU
   Max Havelaar (excl. world shops) ca. 1.9 million ECU
total retail turnover in Belgium ca. 10.0 million ECU
public awareness of fair trade: 65%
public awareness of fair trade products:
   population willing to buy 17%
willingness to pay a higher price: -
market share:
   Max Havelaar coffee 1%
turnover per product category:
   coffee through world shops ca. 2.0 million ECU
   wine through world shops 0.7 million ECU

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