Fair Trade USA is often presented with challenging opportunities to engage with farms that have not historically met our high social, environmental, and labor standards. We do not shy away from these situations, particularly when management commits to significant reforms and a journey of continuous improvement, as such farms offer compelling opportunities to protect the rights and improve the working conditions and well-being of workers.
One such challenge came to us with the Suragroh melon farm in Honduras. Despite known labor issues in this region and historic allegations against Suragroh, Fair Trade USA made a good faith effort to engage this farm in order to improve the lives of its 3,700 workers. Suragroh management worked for more than a year to make the necessary changes to pass our audit of social, environmental, and labor practices, gaining Fair Trade certification in April 2018. These improvements are documented and verified by worker interviews.
Last week, however, we received new evidence from trusted sources in Honduras which alleges recent violations of Fair Trade standards at the Suragroh farm. Given the severity of the allegations and the evidence provided, we moved quickly to suspend Suragroh’s Fair Trade certification while the reported issues are investigated. We will determine the final certification status of the farm once we have the results of a thorough investigation by a third-party auditor, to be conducted shortly. Throughout this case, Fair Trade USA will follow its rigorous audit and certification protocols to establish the validity of the claims. During the suspension, Suragroh is prohibited from selling under Fair Trade terms or with the Fair Trade Certified™ seal. Ultimately, our intention is to hold Suragroh’s management accountable for compliance with Fair Trade standards while upholding the rights and well-being of the workers on the farm.