Turqle's home is in Cape Town, in South Africa. Pieter Swart and Rain Morgan started Turqle in Nov 1997.
Our aim was never to grow a large company. Our model is unusual in the South African business environment: a sustainable mission-driven enterprise.
We have no shareholders and are not driven by profit maximisation. Our aim is always fairness in trade and our dividends do not show on a conventional balance sheet, but hopefully, we are building the change we want to see in the world.
Operationally, we focus a few unique skills on one point: to be the compassionate interface between our trading partners and our producers.
Turqle has 5 employees (non-core tasks are outsourced) and we work with 7 producers/factories throughout the Western Cape. Around 870 people are employed at the various factories and we have about 165 active products in the market.
Pieter and Rain had both – in the early days (before Turqle) – worked for alternative trade organisations (or NGO's) where funding was a constant crisis. So we vowed, right from the start - that our number 1 aim will be to create a SUSTAINABLE Fair Trade Enterprise.
There is a fine line between maximising profits and working for a sustainable profit - because if you dont make any profit at all, you cannot stay in business.
Our name - Turqle – does not mean anything.
When we had to choose a name for our company, we tried to register many many names and they were all taken – so we made something up – Pieter’s favourite colour was Turquoise and Rain’s was Purple – So TURQLE.
The intention at the time was to start there and change the name at some point - but we got busy and the next time we considered it, it was too late.
To all the people who mattered, we had become Turqle...
Turqle is about great PEOPLE stories, but it is equally about good FOOD stories.
Most of the Turqle crew are food nuts. We often go on food trips, celebrate by cooking together and on special occasions, we look for new food experiences...
For us, the real test of a product is whether we'll use it in our own kitchens... If there is even a doubt, we're back to the test kitchen with that product.
One of the things one notices in the factories is that apart from the noise of the machinery, people are often laughing and chatting…
It is this happiness sound-track they build right into the food they make - and it really does make a difference.
We want our customers to come back – and keep coming back – because we sell great tasting food that make them happy too!
One of the challenges we regularly have to navigate is the expectations of the Fair Trade community who are - on the one side deeply disappointed to see all the white coats and stainless steel (and often caps and masks as well!) - and the demands of the international food safety standards we have to comply with.
Fair Trade food is about 'how' we do business, how we deal with the producers and workers and our customers. But when it comes to making the sauce (or blending the spice), it has to happen 'by the book' - the FSC 22000 book.
90% of our business is export into Europe, the UK, USA and Australia. We cannot afford a single 'slip' - people's lives depend on us doing things 'right', so we have to make sure that all the stainless steel and white coats are in place, even if it means that most of our producer pictures ar not very 'artisinal'...
And perhaps, the question they are really asking is: "What value are we adding to the chains between our producers and our trading partners?".
Big picture: Turqle is an umbrella organization. It means we have a central ethos (Fair Trade) – and we approach everyone we trade with, as if they share our values - and to be honest, sometimes they do, and sometimes, perhaps not so much...
From an operational point of view, we buy the products from our producers and sell them on to our trading partners. In effect, our producers get paid even if things go wrong and we do not get paid – and it happens – not often, but it happens.
So, what Turqle actually does, include:
We work with our producers and trading partners to create products that their customers want to buy. This sounds simple – but its not…
Exporting food to the EU means there are many hurdles to jump, lots of boxes to tick and lots of paperwork – many compliances, checking and re-checking and constant vigilance.
The last couple of years, getting freight into and out of South Africa has been, shall we say, "interesting". Every week brings a new challenge that can range from the port computer systems getting hacked for ransom or the unions going out on strike, or we have two weeks of gale-force winds... and that's always assuming the shipping lines are choosing to stop in Cape Town.
These are pretty much the same as everywhere else… except we also print and carry the cost of all the labels and 'extras' (like gift boxes), and all the producers have the option to ask for a 50% (interest free) advance on their order value.
2,5% of Turqle turnover goes to the Fair Trade Trust and the money is used for the education of the workers and their families. Some of our customers, like Ukuva Switzerland, and El Puente in Germany match Turqle’s contribution, and a few of the other companies we trade with, make periodic contributions to the trust.
We also spend a lot of time monitoring the fair trade compliance of our producers. This does not just mean pitching up once a year with a clip-board and ticking some boxes, it means keeping in touch all the time...
In short – we are the soft interface between our producers and our customers. Most of our customers do not have the resources to manage producers remotely. We check, and keep checking, so they do not have to - and our producers do not have the time and people capacity to interface with our customers.
Finally, our real job is to manage the TRUST relationships.
Turqle is guaranteed Fair Trade by the WFTO.
This means we promise our producers and our customers that we hold ourselves accountable to the 10 principles of Fair Trade… It also means we conform to a monitoring and reporting schedule and we are regularly audited by internationally accredited auditors.
In 2011, Turqle also made the commitment to spend at least 25% of its management time to work on Fair Trade and for WFTO. This means Pieter serves on the global board and by extension, is involved in a number of working groups and committees. Rain has been the coordinator of the Living Wage/Living Income Project group since 2013. It often is a very tough balance to negotiate, because it is a huge time-commitment for a small company.
Whenever we get the chance, we encourage buyers (and anyone who will listen!), to choose products that were packed in developing countries, and if it can be sourced fully processed from the country of origin, so much better!
The real value of the ‘added value’ is so much more than the money. It supports one of Turqle’s fundamental aims: to do business in a way that builds sustainable industries, and robust businesses, healthy communities and families with resilient people…
The spices in the grinders come mainly from Asia and India. Spices do not grow in South Africa – but herbs and chillies do… and we have the best, best salt in the world!
The ingredients of the sauces are mostly sourced locally, and some fortunate sauces are made from ingredients that were grown right outside the factory door...
All the rest of the components that make up a spice jar: grinder tops, roundels, seals, bottles, labels, stickers, salt, shipping cartons, lab tests, quality control services, shipping pallets, clearing services and transport… Every single component that is needed to take the product from concept to a shelf-ready unit that can be loaded onto a ship, represents a company and real people who earn real wages.
These are the building blocks of the stable industries, the strong communities and the resilient families we are striving for.
Money conversations are always difficult conversations. For many in Fair Trade, it is 'not nice' to talk about money, and whenever profit is mentioned, hackles rise and people get very uncomfortable.
The reality though, is that until we can think of something different, the world runs on money. Someone has to make something that someone else wants and is prepared to buy... and if you're not making a fair profit, there is nothing to 'share' and invest where its needed.
A note on the numbers that follow: these are the numbers from a traditional Fair Trade chain. It does not contain any 'hidden' costs that conventional, commercial retailers (the ones accountable to shareholders) typically pass on to producers (like proportionate promotional charges, shelf 'rentals', promo (as in 2-for-1) 'discounts', listing audits, 'early settlement discounts' to get an invoice paid inside 45 days, etc.).
To put some numbers into the conversation: This spice grinder leaves South Africa at an FOB price of €1,65, and the sales price on the shelf in Europe is €4,20.
This means €1,65 of the €4,20 the consumer pays, stays in South Africa.
BUT – stating the numbers just like that – without a little ‘reality-check’ – could be misleading…
In conventional business, the price escalation between producers and consumers is most often between 3 and a half, to 4 times the FOB price. In cases where the conditions to trade with big retailers include a whole lot of hidden costs and 'extras' they push down to the producers, this ratio can rise to 5 times the FOB price...
The moment the product leaves South Africa, the costs start building in foreign currency. For example – shipping and often customs clearance, is paid in US$. Import taxes, transport, warehousing, etc are all paid in Euro, and because a large part of this journey is through conventional logistics channels, real market pricing applies.
In this example, 40% of the shelf price stays in South Africa. And that is a very fair, trade story.
Interestingly, the benefits of packing here (in South Africa), are exponentially inverse to the costs – in other words, it does not just pay to pack here, it creates benefits well beyond the value of the money!
In cases where bulk raw materials are exported from the ‘South’, and processed and packed in the EU – and this is true for coffee and tea and cocoa and lots of fair trade commodities – only about 6% of the shelf price stays in the ‘South’ – and the resilience benefits are almost zero…
There is no way an industry - any industry - that sells un-beneficiated raw materials to be processed, packed and marketed in another country, can ever be an engine for growth. It is in the industries that drive the processing and packing and packaging, where the real potential for growing wealth is unlocked.
So, next time you see a pack of Fair Trade coffee (or a chocolate bar, or a chock-chip cookie that was clearly made in Europe from Fair Trade ingredients), ask the brand holder how much of the price you are paying, goes directly back to the farmers or producers. If nothing else, it will make people think...
Bottom-line, a Fair Trade product that was brought in as a bulk raw material and processed in Europe, does not represent the same level of fair returns to the country of origin as a Fair Trade banana or flowers, or a pineapple.
The sauces, relishes and oils though, are made with (mostly) local ingredients.
All the salt products use only Khoisan Natural Salt, which is (as we all know by now), the best salt in the world. There is simply nothing like it...
The Hot Drops are made where the chillies are grown, by the people who grew them… and it does not get better than that!
‘Officially’ our unemployment rate is between 43% and 47%+, but those who know about these things and apply job losses in various industries, the number of working age people who receive social grants and who applied for Social Relief of Distress grants, business closure stats etc to the official estimates, are of the opinion that even 50% unemployment is an optimistic figure... In reality, we are probably closer to 55%.
40% of those who are unemployed (across all ages), are 100% unemployable… their skills (education and experience) simply do not match the job market and the tragedy is, many of these 'unemployable' people are young people…
South Africa has a ‘youth bubble’ – With close to 40% of the population under 24 years old.
In 2020, out of every 100 children who started school in 2008, 60 wrote School Leaving exams. 37 passed, 12 went to university, 6 got degrees, 4 will get a sustainable job. There is a lot of discussion about the number of gradutes who leave the country... it might be as many as half of young graduates.
The biggest tragedy of South Africa’s democracy is that in the 28 years since 1994, we have created an education system where fewer young people than ever complete their schooling and even those who do make it through the system, are not equipped for the job market.
Sadly, the system also ‘schools’ young people into believing that they need to ‘be given an education’, while they’re blind to the opportunities for (virtually free!) self education and entrepreneurship that is out there…
That is why the Turqle’s Fair Trade Trust focuses on education.
2.5% of Turqle's turnover is paid to the Fair Trade Trust.
Of our customers, El Puente, SERRV and Ukuva Switzerland also contribute to the trust.
The Fair Trade Trust has ONE focus: education of the workers and their families.
The Fair Trade Trust has 3 priorities: School Fees, Group Training at Producers and Bursaries for Individuals.
Since 2003, the trust has paid school fees for more than 200 children every year (some years it has been more than 400!) and in recent years, many of the kids who had their school fees paid, have gone on to tertiary education and 2 young women have gone on to good jobs!
Our Fair Trade business is very much like a garden – it needs constant attention – and the flowers never look exactly like it did on the seed packet!
The story of South Africa has not been a good story for a long, long time and the people and businesses thrive in spite of (at times) overwhelming political catastrophes.
Right now, our unemployment rate is the highest in the world, and our youth unemployment is creeping towards 70%.
Education is beyond a mess, large parts of the rail network has collapsed, gender based violence is tragically increasing year by year, the main supplier of electricity is in dire trouble and in most rural towns, basic provision of services have all but stopped.
For most ordinary South Africans, life is very hard indeed… and still, somehow, ordinary people are finding ways to make things work - and if it does not work the way it should, they find ways over, under or around the obstacl. Running a business out of South Africa could be listed as a 'special' skill on someone's CV!
For us, it is about continuous improvement: we sow seeds every day - some grow and some die and it takes a lot of manure, weeding and day to day attention, to keep everything healthy.
For us it is also important to invest time and energy into the global Fair Trade community… The global effect of the pandemic has been dire and the medium term fall-out is not over by a long, long shot.
On the upside, it definitely looks as if people everywhere have a renewed sense of choosing to support the conscience economy and those companies who clearly support people and planet (and not in a flashy ‘greenwashy’ way), but with real commitment and real action, every day and in every way.
We all know about the inequality in global wealth distribution and how the inequalities of recent decades have escalated – the wealthy got richer and the working poor got poorer.
Sadly, while we keep believing that there is merit in chasing the cheapest goods, searching out the biggest discounts and fall for consumerism price orgies like Black Friday, we forget to ask who is absorbing the impact of the 'bargain' we are getting... If you are buying a kids T-shirt for €2, do you ever consider what the producer was paid?
Most people who are older than 35 have, to a greater or lesser degree had to 'un-learn' racism, homo-phobia, xenophobia, gender stereotypes and virtually all the prejudices of the previous century... If people can do this, they can un-learn greed too.
" If we choose to, we can un-learn greed... "
The best news is that we have the power in our hands – with every purchse, we choose where we spend our money. We choose to shop for price, or pay for value...
158 Briza Road, Tableview, 7441, Cape Town, South Africa.
Co-owners & contact for trade enquiries: Rain Morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Pieter Swart (pieter @ turqle.com)
Turqle Trading CC© was registered in South Africa in 1997. The members of the cc are Rain Morgan and Pieter Swart who hereby assert their rights as the owners of the name Turqle Trading, the white star logo and the words "Ethical Food Brands" in association with the white star logo and the name Turqle Trading.
Turqle Trading is the brand parent of Ukuva iAfrica. Ukuva iAfrica© brand is the property of Nigel Wood who hereby asserts his rights as the owner of the logo, the name UkuvaiAfrica and the phrase "a taste of Africa" used in context with Ukuva iAfrica and the Ukuva logo. Turqle Trading is licenced to use and promote the Ukuva iAfrica brand.
Cape Treasures© brand is the property of Turqle Trading which hereby asserts its rights as the owner of the logo, the name Cape Treasures and the phrase "making good food wonderful", used in context with Cape Treasures, the Cape Treasures logo and Turqle Trading.
Rain Morgan & Pieter Swart are part owners of The Savoury Brand and as such have full permission to use the logo, name and marketing material at their discression.
The Fair Trade Trust was created in 2003 with the express intention to provide a vehicle to receive donations for education of the workers and their families who work at the factories that make the products for Turqle.
Turqle contributes 2,5% of turnover to the Fair Trade Trust. El Puente in Germany, Ukuva in Switzerland and SERRV regularly contribute to the trust as well.
The first priority of the trust to is to pay a significant part of the school fees of all the children of the workers. Since 2003, at least 200 children per year have benefitted. The trust also pays for various in-house training courses at the factories as well as bursaries for tertiary education for individuals.
The World Fair Trade Organization guarantees that Turqle is a Fair Trade enterprise.
It means that Turqle commits to uphold the 10 principles of Fair Trade and ensure that all our producers are similarly compliant. We regularly have to submit a self assessment report and our commitments are audited by internationally accredited auditors.
In 2011, Turqle made the commitment to spend at least 25% of its management time working on projects to promote Fair Trade.
Turqle Brands is the collective identity for the Cape Treasures, Ukuva iAfrica and The Savoury products that are marketed and sold in South Africa via Turqle's on-line shop.
Turqle Brands - the name and the logo - is the property of Turqle Trading which hereby asserts its rights as the owner.
Turqle SA is a separate legal entity owned by Linda Buckle, Esky Chunga and Sarah Withey who has permission to use the white star logo and the phrase: "Ethical Food Brands".
Turqle SA's registered address is 158 Briza Rd, Tableview, 7441, Cape Town, South Africa. Tel: 021 5563918.
SA domestic market trade enquiries to: email@example.com wwww.turqle.co.za
Turqle UK is a separate legal entity registered in the UK and trades from 1 Fairview Road, Taplow, Maidenhead SL6 0NQ UK. Tel:+44 7766 262977 www.turqleUK.com
Trade enquiries for UK: firstname.lastname@example.org
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