At the heart of fair trade
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Date: 24 March, 2003

Cafedirect 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.

Box

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.'

Approval

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.'

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