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Does a Fairtrade Certification Benefit those at the Bottom of the Cape’s Wine Value Chain?

A 2021 report indicates that it generates more than US$550 million in export value annually. While wine does not rank as one of South Africa’s biggest industries, it contributes 1.1% to South Africa’s GDP and 1.6% of the country’s total employment, making it significant to the economy. During the colonial and apartheid eras, the country’s wine industry was characterised by the use of enslaved workers and the exploitation and paternalistic control of black and coloured labourers by white farmers. With the formal end of apartheid in 1994, such relations were expected to change. In response to these concerns, some South African wine farms applied for and were granted Fairtrade certification. The Fairtrade label assures consumers that the product they buy has been ethically sourced and traded. Fairtrade certification is supposed to be given only after an audit to determine that the social, economic and environmental conditions on the farm meet certain minimum requirements. Researchers have found that the Fairtrade certification may be helping farmers gain entry to international markets, but their study suggests it is not bringing the anticipated benefits to farmworkers.

THE CONVERSATION