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Fairtrade paves the way for Fairtrade certified cut flowers to enter the Australian market

Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand is pleased to announce the imminent launch of a new category of product: Fairtrade certified cut flowers.

With this addition to the existing vibrant trade in Australia in Fairtrade certified chocolate, tea, and coffee to name a few, Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand is delighted to be able to facilitate a flow of income and fair conditions to workers on Fairtrade certified farms through the sale of cut flowers. The launch will focus on roses – a product with limited availability in the domestic market during the cooler months. Strict compliance with Australia’s biosecurity regulations will be maintained, with the Fairtrade International Standards Committee recently granting an exception for the use of Methyl Bromide on cut flowers imported into Australia.

Methyl bromide has been traditionally used as a treatment to control pests and pathogens of quarantine importance on various traded goods. This treatment is known as ‘Quarantine and Pre-shipment’ (QPS). In 1992, the international community determined that there were no feasible alternatives for QPS treatments and that preventing use of methyl bromide would put international trade and the livelihood of many agricultural sectors at risk. Treatment with methyl bromide for QPS purposes was thus exempted from Montreal Protocol controls. The Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) regularly uses methyl bromide as a fumigant in line with Australia’s strict biosecurity regulations. However, given its high levels of toxicity, methyl bromide is a banned substance on Fairtrade International’s Hazardous Materials List. Until now, this has acted as a non-tariff barrier to market entry for Fairtrade certified cut flowers.

This exception for the use of methyl bromide granted by Fairtrade International has been made on condition that Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand, in partnership with flower importers:
a. continues to seek solutions to replace the use of methyl bromide with alternative materials; and
b. seeks to reduce the carbon footprint arising from the airfreight transport of cut flowers to Australia.

Any treatment of Fairtrade flowers must be undertaken in government-licensed facilities in accordance with strict Australian government and IPPC requirements. No treatment is permitted on the actual farms.

This exception has been granted with the aim of facilitating the flow of benefits, including payment of the Fairtrade Premium, to workers on Fairtrade flower farms. The Fairtrade Premium, typically used by workers at origin to build schools, hospitals and facilitate important training, has been applied in some instances during COVID to subsidize wages lost during the COVID pandemic when the decimation of the flower market led to job losses or furloughs in countries without a safety net for workers. Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand is keen to see Premiums paid in Australia flow back to workers in countries of origin as we strive for global recovery from COVID, and in the longer term, fair working conditions and terms of trade for the international flower industry and its workers.

Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand will continue active engagement with DAWE and the fresh produce industry to explore alternatives to the use of methyl bromide, including irradiation, phosphine and systems-based approaches. A more detailed plan will be published on this site in the coming months. We will also work with importers to support their work in reducing their carbon footprint.

This exception is valid until November 2022.

Minutes of the relevant Fairtrade International meeting are available here.

For further information about Fairtrade flowers in Australia please contact info@fairtrade.com.au