Within the fresh produce industry, the Fair Trade Certified label has historically been associated with the banana industry but now includes many products. Now, the label can also be found on a select amount of organic lemons. These lemons are produced by Quatro Aces in Mexico and imported into the United States by Dovex.
Gene Loudon, Dovex’s import director says: "Quatro Aces cultivates between 600-700 hectares in a very small and poor town in the state of Tamaulipas in Mexico. Around 60% of the product is destined for the U.S. market and the rest will either be used for juice or distributed domestically through Mexico. At Dovex, we believe that anybody who grows or imports produce has a social responsibility to the people working in the fields. We need to ensure that the farm workers are earning a living wage, have access to medical services, and are made available to educational opportunities.”
Great impact already
The Fair Trade label and certification program through Fair Trade USA creates a lot of opportunities, Loudon says. “Certain percentages of the sales are put right back into the community, and this can be used for things such as water wells or improving the educational systems.”
The presence of Quatro Aces has already had a very positive impact on the community of Jamauve, where the organic lemons are grown. Loudon shares: “This little town had very little employment opportunities before Quatro Aces entered it, but since they’ve been there, they have employed many of the towns’ workforce. In 2017, the town sent 245 individuals to the U.S. to work through the H2A program, and in 2018 that number was down to 11 because many of these people were then gainfully employed. This precipitated a great transformation of this small town.”
The socially responsible consumer
Quatro Aces lemons are the only Fair Trade Certified lemons in the world as of 2020 – and this goes for both conventional and organic lemons. “Though all our lemons are organic,” Loudon adds. Being both organic and Fair Trade Certified naturally brings up the price,but so far Dovex has seen good movement on the product. “There is about a 10-20% uptick in price, but so far we are still seeing good demand. The market is becoming more socially responsible and this is driven by consumer demand. When you buy a Fair Trade Certified product you know that it is grown with an eye to the well-being of the growers and workers who have contributed to creating the product.”
“Unfortunately, there are still many producers who do not use fair labor practices in their growing. The Fair Trade Certified standard helps to ensure that a lot of these unfair practices are eliminated. There are plenty of consumers who find that the small premium is worth the moral returns. The important thing is that the consumers need to alert their retailers and importers of their desire to be able to purchase these types of socially responsible products. This will help expand the offering and hopefully help create a better growing environment for many people throughout the world,” says Loudon.
Looking toward extension and expansion
The typical Mexican lemon season runs from June to September, however, Dovex aims to be able to supply these lemons year-round. “Last year, we started packing on January 9th and continued packing through the middle of December, which is already quite unique for the Mexican lemon season. We’ve been able to extend the season through some unique growing practices, and we hope to be able to extent it even further to be able to, eventually, supply year-round.”
He adds: “We are going to expand into limes next – we already have a number of hectares of limes in the ground in our Fair Trade Certified orchards. We’re very fortunate to have a constant water supply in our orchards, and we aren’t as affected by the shortage of precipitation that sometimes causes issues with volumes coming from the southern coastal areas of Mexico.”
“In the end, it is up to all of us to ensure that the products we are purchasing and bringing into the markets are products that are enabling happiness rather than preventing it – whether that be for the end consumer, or for the person who has planted the initial seeds,” Loudon concludes.