"Successful implementation of FT USA has the potential to improve the position of fishermen in the GVC, but the cultural norms on patron relationship with the middlemen were felt to be a serious issue of some significance."
The fishing industry in Central Maluku has long been culturally facilitated by the presence of middlemen. Middlemen have been popular as financial stability providers, as well as facilitators to get fishermen connected to global markets. Critics argue that middlemen, who are seen as more powerful in this patron relationship, might block fishermen from direct market access. In the regime of a transparent market, fishermen as primary producers are expected to achieve a better position in the fisheries value chain. To acquire a stronger function, their overall skills and knowledge should be expanded, known as process of functional upgrading in the Global Value Chain (GVC) approach. In this thesis, the implementation of Fair Trade (FT) USA is highlighted as a potential scheme which facilitates the upgrading through fishermen empowerment. This raises question regarding the role of functional upgrading, through FT USA, would give the means in strengthen the position of fishermen within the GVC. To answer this question, Laksmi studied the FT USA pilot in Central Maluku by conducting interviews with fishermen, middlemen, FT USA representatives, the Market Access Partner, processing company representatives, tuna fisheries expert, FT experienced farmer, and a local NGO. The results of the study show that three recently established Fisher Associations (FAs) were highly enthusiastic to participate in the FT scheme in an effort to improve their position and enhance their wider market channel. At the same time, middlemen were alarmed that the emerging FAs would narrow their role in the GVC. To avoid disharmony, it was found that the Market Access Partner, an implementation mediator, has a particular task to ensure both middlemen and fishermen completely grasp the full concept of FT USA. Following this study, it has been concluded that building trust and managing timely results are found to be key success in implementation of the scheme. Successful implementation of FT USA has the potential to improve the position of fishermen in the GVC, but the cultural norms on patron relationship with the middlemen were felt to be a serious issue of some significance.