Market's end

Fair-trade social premiums as development in Dominica

by Mark Moberg

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On the island of Dominica, in the eastern Caribbean, the sale of fair-trade bananas generates “social premiums” to fund projects that the government can no longer afford because of structural adjustment. Promoted as a means of democratic decision-making, social premiums operate in an “awkward zone of engagement” between development policy and local practice. Their uses are constrained by fair-trade certification, as well as by the gender, class, and political nexus of farmers’ groups and communities. As a development strategy and system of governance, fair trade invokes universal narratives of democracy and pluralism, but its effects are expressed through local dispositions of identity and material practice, as well as competitive “ethical” markets. For farmers, global competition and rigid certification standards signal an impending “market's end,” the closure of their last alternative as agriculturalists.