At the heart of fair trade
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living > Fairtrade involvement
Date: 24 March, 2003
products. Image: www.cafedirect.co.uk
'Christian Aid supporters were among those
early campaigners in the mid-90s who plagued supermarkets
with postcards, asking them to stock fairly traded products.'
Moira Nash looks at the history of Christian Aid's involvement with
the fair trade movement
The fair trade sector has seen an
incredible boom over the last ten years. Once the exclusive domain
of only the most hardened and committed coffee drinkers, it's now
virtually unrecognisable as a £63 million a year industry,
renowned for its quality products.
Though arguably still a middle-class
phenomenon, (not everyone can afford the price premium that comes
with having a conscience) the middle-class are powerful consumers,
and they've voted with their feet when it comes to trade.
The staggering growth of fair trade is a powerful testament to the
fact there are many people out there who are no longer prepared
to swallow injustice with their morning coffee and want to support
a fairer and more equal world.
Christian Aid is involved in fair trade at both
ends of the production: from little brown bean to the giant, frothy
cup. Christian Aid supporters were among those early campaigners
in the mid-90s who plagued supermarkets with postcards, asking them
to stock fairly traded products.
And a member of Christian Aid staff is infamous for appearing on
stage at the Greenbelt festival dressed in nothing but a Cafédirect
box (giant size of course!)
Gradually the marketing rubbed-off, the point
got across. From Maya Gold chocolate and Cafédirect coffee,
to Dubble, Divine and fair trade roses.
The number of fair trade foods available has risen to 130 and with
it the number of farmers overseas who benefit. Fair trade tea and
coffee can be drunk in high street bars and cafes, and following
the example of Garstang, Lancashire there are now 37 'fair trade'
towns and cities.
At the other end of the scale, on the other side
of the world, where chocolate is virtually unknown and a café
latte a distant dream, thousands of producers and farmers have seen
their lives improved by our consumer choice.
One such farmer is Teofilo César Torres
Reyes. Teofilo Torres sells his coffee to Prodecoop, a union of
cooperatives, established in 1993 and funded by Christian Aid, which
seeks to bring people together for the common interest of selling
coffee. Prodecoop sells its coffee to fair trade companies and its
members produce one of the main kinds of beans used by Cafédirect.
'We get a fair price from Prodecoop,' says Reyes
'and that's a blessing. All the profits from selling the coffee
go back in to the community.'
Overseeing the fair trade sector in the UK, and ensuring with its
seal of approval that you can be sure fair trade does what it says
on the tin, is the Fairtrade Foundation.
This independent body which Christian Aid helped to establish in
1992 along with Oxfam, WDM, Traidcraft, and Cafod, exists to promote
fair trade and use the international Fairtrade mark to guarantee
that a product delivers a fair deal for its producers.
Christian Aid supporters continue to promote
and support fair trade: buying the goods, holding the stalls in
church, badgering the supermarkets to stock more products.
And fired up by their success, they now have even bigger fish to
fry: the rules that govern international trade. Get those working
in favour of the poor, they say, and we might just begin to see
an end to poverty.
Alison Page, from Stepping Stones, a New Church
in Corbridge, Northumberland believes that promoting Fairtrade products
and campaigning for trade justice go hand in hand.
She sums up the views of many: 'Buying Fairtrade products is a way
of putting your money where your mouth is, and directly benefits
the producers. But the Trade Justice Campaign is working towards
a change in international trade rules which has massive potential
to make a difference to many millions of the poorest people.'
the Cafédirect website here