Fair trade slowly catching on in Czech Republic, says boss of Prague shop

Na Zemi (On the Ground, On the Earth) is the name of a shop which has just opened on Prague’s Belehradska Street. The owners say it is the first store in the Czech capital specialising in fair trade foodstuffs, for which growers in the developing world are guaranteed a reasonable price for their crops. The new shop is run by an NGO called Society for Fair Trade and Development Education. I spoke to the group’s Tomas Bily, who is also the manager of Na Zemi.

“We sell goods from Third World countries – coffee, tea, chocolate, rice, sugar.”

Are many other shops in the Czech Republic also selling fair trade goods?

“There are some shops specialised in fair trade goods. They are in Brno, in Prague, in Olomouc, in Trutnov and so on. And there are many other shops selling fair trade goods, but they are not specialised.”

What about prices? How do the prices of say fair trade chocolate or fair trade coffee compare to regular prices here in the Czech Republic?

“I have to say all the chocolates and so on are very high quality goods, and if we compare the quality and the prices, then the prices are not higher than regular goods in shops. You have to consider the quality.”

In the West fair trade is a big trend now and a lot of big chains, like I believe Starbucks, and I’m sure supermarket chains, are also selling fair trade goods. Do you think it will catch on here as it has done in Western countries?

“It is starting already, because all the biggest chains are talking about fair trade goods in their shops – Hypernova, Tesco and so on, and there is also now one chain of drugstores that has started with fair trade. And I hope in some years it could be as popular as in Western countries.”

Given that fair trade goods are at least a little bit more expensive, generally, do you think that Czechs are willing to pay more to make sure that nobody has been exploited in the production of their foodstuffs?

“The problem is that Czechs generally do not think about it as much as Westerners do. I think the problem is not in the price but in the thinking – they are not thinking about the conditions of the producers, and so on. And I think if they will know more about conditions then they will pay more for fair trade goods.”