The association Max Havelaar

What is the association Max Havelaar?


Max Havelaar is a nonprofit association whom name refers to the hero from a Dutch novel denouncing the trade conditions imposed to Indonesians farmers. The association doesn't buy or sell any fair products: this is independent organizations which manage the Fair Trade label, existing in 58 producers’ countries and 21 consumer countries.

Products having the Max Havelaar label are derived from Fair Trade, in other words, they have been produced and sold according to international standards of Fair Trade. About one million and a half producers and workers beneficiate of fair trade labeled Fair Trade/Max Havelaar. Counting their family, we estimate that it is representing around 8 million of people in 59 countries of Africa, Asia and South America. They are united in 746 organizations.

More than 80 million of families in the world consume Fairtrade / Max Havelaar labeled. In average,, they purchase 4 fair products per year and spend 15.9€ in the year (Kantar, January 2010). Most of the consumers are wealthy urban, old enough and without child, and sensible to ethical and environmental issues. However, fair trade extends more and more too all categories of population, specifically those earning modest incomes (Kantar, January 2010).

Some anti-globalization as Christian Jacquiau also criticize the fact that Max Havelaar having appropriated the term "label", arguing that a label must have an approval from the Ministry of Agriculture. They oppose to the demarche of Max Havelaar to those of other actors as world Artisans or Minga, which don't supply supermarkets or multinationals. Moreover, Max Havelaar has only 50 inspectors to watch the work conditions of a million employees working for cooperatives which supply it, indicating a low control. This book was itself criticized, reproaching it many factual error and inconsistencies.

Selection criteria

For producers:

  • Democratic organization: Fair trade beneficiaries are small producers among the most disadvantaged. They have to organize in a democratic way. The organization has to favor the active participation of all the members, without discriminations. Elections have to ensure the representativeness of all.
  • Environment protection: farms should be conducted to allow the sustainable management of natural resources;
  • Decent work conditions: for seasonal workers or those processing units, the beneficiaries undertake to refuse undertake to refuse forced labor, to ensure freedom of association, occupational health and safety at work.

For distributors and manufacturers:

  • Purchase of products certified by FLO-Cert : The key to fair trade is the principle of "guarantee minimum price". For each product this price is calculated from a very specific technical study. It must simultaneously cover all production costs and provide a satisfactory remuneration to family labor involved in the production. The "guarantee minimum price" is what clearly distinguishes the "fair trade" from other models which can be the "organic certification" or the "codes of conduct for sustainable development" set up by large companies.
  • Pre-financing of the crops : When the producers' cooperative requests so, the importer provides a pre-financing of the crops to ensure the collection of the product from farmers member. Pre-financing allows small producers to avoid borrowing loan moneylenders.
  • Long-term partnership with the producers: The distributor, manufacturer and importer must ensure a long term commitment from producers.
  • FLO-Cert controls: Distributor, manufacturer and importer shall insure full traceability of the products. They must be able at any time to justify the origin of the quantities purchased, quantities in stock and quantities sold.


Max Havelaar guarantee:

Max Havelaar France represents the label at an international level and ensures the promotion of fair trade. It is linked to the international network FLO (Fairtrade Labelling Organization), which gather equivalent initiatives in 20 countries in Europe, North America and Japan. The FLO federation defines the standards for each product and supports producers’ organizations.

The certification and the control of labeled channels FLO-Max Havelaar are ensured by an independent society, Flo-Cert. All products from The Jute Shop are certified Flo-Cert.