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In the 1990s, fair trade, as practised by alternative trading organisations (ATOs), has evolved from a solidarity to a partnership model. This paper explores the nature of fair trade partnership using a case study of Cafedirect and one of its suppliers, the KNCU in Tanzania. For ATOs, fair trade is articulated in terms of a partnership with both producers and consumers. Partnership in this paper is conceived in terms of a fusion of the market and ethics in the links in the supply chain from the producer and consumer, the core partnership being that between the ATO and the producer organisation. The case study is used to highlight the elements of the partnership that are necessary for a fair trade relationship to ‘work’, emphasising the importance of participation by the producer partner.

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