SEATTLE, Washington — The working conditions in the nut industry are not always ideal. There is a major concern as to whether the labor standards are ethical for employees. For instance, in India, it is common that employers expect harvesters on cashew farms to work long hours for a wage that leaves them living below the poverty line. Not only that, but the work itself is physically dangerous because cashew shells contain harmful chemicals called cardol and anacardic that leave brutal welts and burns on human flesh if the shells make contact. While a simple pair of gloves would be enough to protect cashew harvester’s skin from these chemicals, but many employers do not allow their employees to wear gloves because gloves tend to slow down the harvesting process. Luckily, the organization, Liberation Foods, is devoted to improving working conditions for farmers and sells fair-trade nuts.
Liberation Foods and Twin
Liberation Foods emerged in order to put a stop to the unfair labor practices the nut industry uses. This organization is the only farm-owned nut company in the U.K. that provides fair-trade nuts. It works with nut farmers from Malawi, Nicaragua, India, El Salvador, Brazil and the Amazon Rainforest to ensure every farmer on these plantations earns a fair income for their labor and products. This income should allow farmers to live comfortably, feel empowered and plan for their futures.
Founded in 2003, Liberation Foods’ fair-trade partner, Twin, made the company possible. Twin is a nonprofit organization that works to ensure each trading company it partners with, including Liberation Foods, is using ethical and sustainable farming practices. The organization’s approach focuses on five pillars of trade: governance, gender justice, sustainable agriculture, business management, quality and marketing access. By ensuring that all these aspects of the trade industry ethical, farmers in developing communities are able to create better lives for themselves, businesses are able to thrive and the environment can fully be preserved.
Likewise, Liberation Foods ensures all its producers receive at least the fair-trade minimum price for its fair-trade nuts. However, if the market price is above the fair-trade minimum, it makes sure to pay the producers at least the market price. The minimum fair-trade price varies on the farmer because it guarantees that the farmer receives a price that covers at least what it costs to grow their crops.
Liberation Foods and the Fair Trade Alliance Kerala
Each year, Liberation Foods works on a number of projects to help the farmers with whom it works. The organization works with the Fair Trade Alliance Kerala (FTAK) in India. In 2019, Liberation foods donated to help rebuild the rural communities that floods had destroyed the previous summer. Liberation Foods and around 20 other organizations collectively raised 10 million Indian rupees in funds. This money went towards:
- Ensuring that affected families had access to cash and safe drinking water.
- Helping remove the debris that the flood left behind.
- Providing seeds for farmers to encourage them to rebuild their farms which the floods destroyed.
The process India’s farm rebuilding is ongoing, but Liberation Foods is committed to continuing working with FTAK for as long as it needs.
Liberation Foods and the Indian Cashew Industry
Another recent project Liberation Foods accomplished was providing castor oil to the cashew harvesters in India so they could rub it on their hands to protect themselves from the acid burns the cashew shells cause. The acid is unable to penetrate the oil, so harvesters’ skin stays protected. Liberation Foods provides gloves for the harvesters as well.
Different states in India have different minimum wage policies. Liberation Foods ensures all workers on its India cashew farms earn at least minimum wage. Typically this organization’s farmers earn slightly above the minimum. Also, the Technical Manager of Liberation Foods performs regular checks to ensure every farm, factory and warehouse meets the set health and safety standards.
Liberation Foods sells fair-trade nuts including peanuts, cashews and peanut butter both in-store and online. It encourages the purchase of fair trade foods so that farmers in developing countries can lead better lives. As always, the organization welcomes donations.
– Emily Turner