|WOULD A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME SMELL AS SWEET? FAIR TRADE FLOWERS JUST MIGHT BE SWEETER.|
Flowers are a symbol of celebration, and are popular purchases for occasions like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or a graduation. But many people admire the beauty of a red rose without thinking about where the cut flower was produced, or under what conditions.
The Dutch were the first to produce flowers for auction, and began exporting in the early 1600s. Today, half of the world’s flowers are grown in the Netherlands, and Dutch flower auctions amount to 19 million flowers per day. In this multi-billion dollar global industry, developing countries control most of the relevant technology and expertise.
A growing proportion of cut flowers are produced and exported by developing countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Colombia, and Ecuador. The majority of flowers sold in Canada, available since 2005, are imported from Latin America.
Work in the flower industry is a very important source of income for many people, especially in regions where agriculture no longer brings in a living wage. However, these popular tokens of love and affection are often grown under a labour and chemical- intensive process that puts workers and the environment at high risk.
Photo: Mr. Didier Gentilhomme
Not so rosy
Jobs in the flower industry are often insecure, with short-term contracts, low wages, and no benefits. Relatively few workers belong to unions, which would allow them to collectively negotiate better working conditions. Instead, many flower companies work to actively prevent the establishment of unions.
One of the most serious issues in the production of flowers is the exposure of workers, and their environment, to highly toxic chemical pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers. Flower-importing countries only accept flower shipments if they are totally free of diseases and insects, so the majority of producers use huge quantities of these poisons.
Workers are often required to handle dangerous chemicals without proper protective equipment. They also experience a variety of serious physical harm due to long hours spent in awkward positions, extreme changes in temperature, and long working hours.
Despite the fact that 65-70% of flower workers are women, they are typically paid less than men and are likely to be hired on a temporary rather than a permanent one. Pregnant and nursing women are often unprotected against exposure to dangerous chemicals.
While this may all sound very unromantic, there's a way to show that special someone that you really care. Go on, flirt with Fair Trade.
Flirt with Fair Trade
Fair Trade aims to protect and benefit workers on flower farms by certifying those farms which ensure safety and good working conditions for their employees. Among other things, Fair Trade standards for flowers ensure the following:
- Salaries must be equal to or higher than the regional average or the minimum wage.
- Producer organizations receive a premium, set at 10% of the negotiated price, which is invested in social and economic initiatives.
- A Joint Body composed of workers and management is formed to manage the Fair Trade premium.
- Forced labour and child labour of children under 15 years old is prohibited. Children aged 15 and over cannot do work that compromises their health or education.
- Workers have the right to establish or join an independent union
- Health and safety measures must be established in order to avoid work-related injuries. A detailed set of safety regulations specific to flower production limit the use of agrochemicals and prohibit the use of banned pesticides.
Photo: Mr. Didier Gentilhomme
If you choose to buy imported flowers, we hope you'll choose Fair Trade. Of course, many flowers are grown in Canada, and you can also find local organic options. Geraniums, poinsettias, chrysanthemums, the Canada Lily (Lilium canadense), and the woodland lily are just a few examples of the flowers cultivated domestically. Fresh local flowers are typically available from May until the middle of October.
Did you know?
Roses are the most popular, and most widely traded, flowers in the world. They are followed by carnations and chrysanthemums.