Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet

Fair Trade

Economic action to create a just global economy for farmers and artisans



riceRice is a main food staple for 3 billion people and represents 20% of the world’s caloric intake.  Rice is cultivated on every continent of the world except Antarctica and employs over 1 billion farmers.  Yet, world prices have fallen for rice farmers. According to the Educational Network for Global and Grassroots Exchange (ENGAGE), “In Thailand, the world's biggest rice exporter, 68% of farmers in the northeastern rice growing region hold a debt that is three times their annual income.” Fair Trade rice is helping to support both the workers and the environment.


Fair Trade Rice Association

Sunstar - Federation of Small Farmers of Khaddar Area

Khaddar, India

photo and profile from TransFair USA

Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Sunstar – the Federation of Small Farmers of Khaddar Area - cultivates a Fair Trade Certified™ Basmati rice that is fed by water from the Ganges river.  Sunstar Fair Trade farmers exclusively grow organic rice, illustrating the federation's dedication to sustainable farming practices. Since becoming Fair Trade certified by the Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) in 2004, the federation has improved their stewardship of the land and raised the standard of living for its 900 member farmers.

Fair Trade has provided for:

  • Fundamental needs such as food, shelter, education, and health care
  • Education and Health Services: Sunstar provides women and children increased access to educational opportunities and health care. The federation runs agricultural training for disadvantaged women, facilitates self-help groups, and provides family planning programs.
  • Environment- Organic Agriculture: The federation offers training on organic and sustainable agricultural practices, and provides loans for agricultural improvements. It also funds and facilitates the organic certification process.
  • Micro-Credit Program: Sunstar provides interest-free loans for pre-harvest financing, such as bio-pesticides and manures.
  • Transportation Improvements: Sunstar farmers build raised roads and bridges to lessen the impact of annual flooding.

"The higher price received for our rice has helped farmers emerge from an exploitative eternal debt cycle... The vicious cycle has been broken by the Fair Trade mechanism, because Sunstar provides interest-free loans. The added income has infused confidence among farmers and their condition is not only improving economically, but also socially." -Ajay Katyal, Sunstar Exporter


More about rice:

  • According to ENGAGE, much of today’s rice cultivation involves the use of heavy pesticides and chemical fertilizers.  Though this helps increase yields in the beginning, farmers become stuck in a cycle of buying more chemicals to continue cultivation as the land becomes hardened to them.  This cycle leaves the farmer in debt and sickened by the pesticides.
  • The market is volatile, and when world prices drop, farmers are faced with taking out expensive loans. Reports of selling children into the sex trade for cheap labor or high counts of suicide abound in rice production areas.  Mr. Changal Reddy, president of Federation of Andhra Pradesh Farmers Association, reports that over 3,000 farmers in that Indian state have committed suicide, largely from facing massive debt from loans.
  • Fair Trade rice stabilizes the unpredictable market and regulates chemical use.  In fact, most Fair Trade rice is also organic, and the certification regulates chemical use to protect both the environment as well as the farmers
  • Learn more about ENGAGE, a student led initiative to promote Fair Trade rice in the US.

Find where to purchase Fair Trade rice near you! »


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