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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 7 March 2021

Fair trade lays down roots in the UAE

Fair trade is still in its infancy in the UAE, but a growing number of retailers is increasing awareness of the idea.
A staff member shows off a spoonful of roasted coffee beans at the Raw Coffee Company in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
A staff member shows off a spoonful of roasted coffee beans at the Raw Coffee Company in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Do you ever wonder where the food you eat comes from? The clothes you wear? The beauty products you use? The reality is that most of us purchase items on a daily basis without much thought given to how they reached us. We also rarely consider the conditions the producers of these items are working under. Fair trade aims to not only introduce local sustainability and bring decent working conditions to those producing various goods, but also to present fairer terms of trade for workers and farmers in the developing world. Traditionally, trade discriminates against the poorest producers - fair trade aims to improve their position.

Fair trade in the UAE

Fair trade is a relatively new concept in the UAE and Gulf countries. However, there is a growing number of options here for those looking to support the movement. Sabeena Ahmed, the creator and owner of The Little Fair Trade Shop, has been campaigning for fair trade in the UAE for the past four years and says that there is a community of ethically minded people in the country who are embracing its principles.

"Fair trade is in its infancy here in the UAE," she says. "I believe with time, patience and media awareness, fair trade will be as widely accepted and understood as it is in the UK, US and Europe."

Maintaining international standards

Sally Wakley, a store development manager for Marks & Spencer Al Futtaim, says that while there is no organisation that regulates fair trade in the UAE, the good news is that the standards and rules governing the use of the Fairtrade mark do not differ from market to market.

"Wherever M&S customers are, they can know that if the product they are buying carries the Fairtrade mark, the suppliers behind that product are guaranteed a fair and stable price for their crop. Customers simply need to look for the Fairtrade label," she explains.

The Little Fair Trade Shop

Ahmed's shop promotes handicrafts, garments and home furnishings produced by fair trade organisations and indigenous groups from Africa, South-east Asia, the Middle East, the Far East, and Central and South America. You can expect to find hand-embroidered coin purses, bags, jewellery, home accessories, ceramics and children's toys. "I try to procure and support as many fair-trade organisations in the Middle East as I can," explains Ahmed. "I am hoping to introduce fair-trade food, tea, coffee, chocolate, sweets, snacks, rice, quinoa, nuts, and olives this season." For more information, email


L'Occitane's shea butter range is made with fair trade shea butter from Burkina Faso. More than 15,000 women, organised into five regional associations, harvest the shea nuts and produce the butter. Joseph Kedemos, the general manager of L'Occitane in the Middle East, says the company supports the women's work by purchasing the butter directly from them and using it in L'Occitane's skincare range. L'Occitane has a number of outlets in the UAE, including at The Dubai Mall, Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall and Sharjah City Centre. For more information, visit

Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer stocks a number of fair trade products as part of its "Plan A" commitment to issues such as sustainability and ethical trading. The company imports fair-trade cotton and uses it in selected clothing items; M&S Al Futtaim also stocks products from the M&S food range, which are fair trade-certified. According to Wakley, this range of fair trade products is set to grow. "Because fair trade is so important to the way we do business and is 100 per cent in line with our Plan A commitments, we see the proportion of products we sell that are fair trade increasing," she says.

Marks & Spencer has outlets in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain. For more information, visit

Raw Coffee Company

Like your morning cup of java? Then why not switch to an ethically conscious choice of brew? The Raw Coffee Company consists of an impressive roastery in a warehouse in Al Quoz, Dubai, where you can either enjoy the espresso and brew bar, or take away some blends to savour at home. Raw uses 100 per cent ethically traded, fair trade-certified and organic coffee - so you can drink with the reassurance that the coffee made its way to you the ethical way. The roastery features mezzanine seating and Wi-Fi and is open from 8am to 5pm, Saturday to Thursday, and 9am to 5pm on Fridays. For more information, visit


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Published: December 3, 2012 04:00 AM


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