Feb 09 – Fairtrade Fortnight

fairtradeFairtrade Fortnight 2009 runs from 23 February to 8 March.

This is an annual event which aims to encourage people to make a difference to the lives of producers in the developing world by choosing fair trade.

Here Rob Rees tells us his views…

It is fair to say that I have been around the block a few times when it comes to cookery demonstrations and talks. Many of those are within our education system or perhaps Women’s Institute Groups, big food festivals and so on.

Most of the times as I give out the key messages around food safety or healthy eating the audience are engaged, happy and quite content with the hour or so entertainment neatly arranged for them. However, as with the issue around “Zero Waste Week” last month, the subject of fair trade truly gets people animated, excited and often with split opinions.

The youth of today, you know the ones that always get labelled by us blinkered older generation who often judge books to hastily by their covers, embrace the concept of fair trade so much better and openly than those of us who have formed habits and ideas through years of purchasing and misplaced consumerism.  Maybe it is the information highway and the fact that schools in Gloucestershire can reach out to third world education systems and global influences at a touch of a button, or perhaps it may be just because they care and purchasing power makes a difference. Either way the new generation, the future generation, get it!

I do too. I just have a few things to facilitate the debate for you guys on the blog – devil’s advocate again people….

  • Do fair trade products taste better than say organic or local or food sourced from elsewhere?
    (I love the vanilla @ Cotswold Ice Cream Company, which is a great fair trade product by the way.)
  • If it isn’t about taste is it a product only purchased for the ethical reasons? If that is the case is it truly sustainable as a concept?
  • Can the concept of fair trade, such as long term fixed price contracts for the farmers and producers, be applied to UK production? Shouldn’t that be the norm?
  • How can I trust it? Who enforces such a standard when it is applied on such a grand scale?
  • Does my money really make it to the person who needs it the most?

To quote the BBC Food website:  “There are sceptics who regard fair trade as unfair interference that encourages overproduction of certain crops and makes farmers dependent on handouts.”

What do you think?

Anyway I’m behind the principles of fair trade and look forward to the fortnight that starts on the 23rd February. 

To find out more about Fairtrade Fortnight go to http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/get_involved/fairtrade_fortnight/fairtrade_fortnight_2009/default.aspx

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3 Responses

  1. Meanwhile, organic wine, beer and spirits are finally seeping into public awareness. Organic

  2. When it comes to the world of coffee “fairtrade” is a complex situation. When the FT brand first started, the basic premise was to make sure that the farmer got paid a reasonable wage for the crop they picked. This was at a time when coffee prices were comparitively at an all time low. Since then coffee prices have escalated mainly due to the commodities market. It is now almost impossible to buy green coffee even at the minimum price set by FT – most prices are way above that now. Therefore, if you are attempting to buy direct from each farm you will almost certainly pay in excess of the FT minimum. Obviously the higher the quality the higher the price. Now to my point – what FT (generally) doesn’t do is encourage farmers to produce a better crop because they are (more accurately were) guaranteed a “better” price. What person will work harder than necessary? When working with the poorer regions of the world we MUST encourage a trade and not an “aid only” attitude.
    My other comment on FT is the attitude that only if you have the “stamp” are you fair. This isn’t, obviously, necesarily the case.
    As I started with its not always “that” simple. What FT started out to achieve I applaud. Having worked on the ground with coffee growers (in Africa) there are other options and the consumer should always ask their producers the tough questions and not “just” settle for a stamp on the bag.

  3. I think that Fairtrade is generally a good thing it is not a “catch all” or a solution for all problems – but it is a little step that can make a difference.
    It is not helpful to hand out aid long term but it is effective to give producers a fair price for a good product, in a market normally driven by a middle man.

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