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Why does Fairtrade Matter?

Most people would agree that everyone deserves a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work but millions of people across the world work hard and yet still live in dire poverty without access to adequate food, clean water, decent housing, education and health care.

Small scale farmers produce 70% of the world’s food supply and yet makeup 50% of the world’s hungriest people. What could be more unfair than this? The very people who work hard to produce our food often end up going hungry.

How does this happen? The world food trade is dominated by a small number of multi-national companies and in the same way the retail food trade in the UK is dominated by a handful of supermarkets. In this situation small scale farmers have no bargaining power and have to accept whatever price they are offered even if it leaves them in dire poverty. When we go shopping on the High St we are often at the end of an unfair trading network and end up profiting from a system that exploits the producers.

It is easy to think that charity is the answer to poverty. Of course there will always be a need for charity because there will always be unexpected disasters such as droughts, earthquakes and wars. Yet, charity must never be a substitute for justice. Poorly paid farmers and producers do not need charity. They simply need to be fairly paid. After all, would we take a job where we would not receive enough for our basic bills in the hope that we might receive a charitable handout if we were lucky at the end of the month? Yet, this is precisely how many producers in poorer countries are forced to live.

This is why Fairtrade matters. Where we see the Fairtrade Mark on a product we can be sure that the producer has received an adequate wage. The Fairtrade Mark guarantees a minimum price for foodstuffs such as coffee, tea, cocoa beans and bananas. The Fairtrade Mark also means that the producers as a group are paid a bonus known as the Social Premium which they use as they think fit for the benefit of their whole community, for example, by building a school, setting up a supply of clean water, paying for medical staff.

Fairtrade rewards and empowers the producers for the work they do provided they in their turn undertake to act fairly towards others. Fairtrade means no child labour. Fairtrade means that decisions must be taken democratically. Fairtrade means observing proper health and safety practices. Fairtrade means also respecting the environment.

In reality Fairtrade is the most obvious way of caring for the environment and fighting climate change because the producers who live off the land have every reason to look after their environment. After all, they want to hand their farms on to their children and grandchildren. Unlike large multi-national companies they cannot exploit the land and then move on somewhere else. Fairtrade tea farmers in Kenya have used their Social Premium to take up the thirsty eucalyptus trees planted in colonial times and replace them with native trees that are better for the environment.

There are other ethical marks such as Rainforest Alliance which have become popular recently but unfortunately they do not provide the same benefits for the producers as the Fairtrade Mark. Only the Fairtrade Mark guarantees the producers a minimum price and a Social Premium. That is why it is so important to buy Fairtrade if we want to end the dreadful poverty and hunger that disfigures our world.

The Fairtrade Mark is awarded and regulated by the Fairtrade Foundation which is an independent charity. The Fairtrade Foundation website contains full information about the Fairtrade Mark and many examples of how it can transform the lives of struggling producers.

6 Responses to Home

  1. Sadie Rodea says:


    I am a teacher at a Secondary school in Chelmsford and am really interested in trying to persuade our Management team that we should bcome a Fairtrade school. However, I am hitting some walls with the Catering team, in that they are saying it is just too expensive to implement in a Secondary school.

    I was wondering if you had an experience of implementing this on a large school, such as in a Secondary school, and whether you had some more information about suppliers and prices?

    Many thanks

    • Malcolm Wallace says:

      Thanks for the question Sadie. First of all Essex County Council supports Fairtrade, that should be helpful. It is not correct to say that Fairtrade is more expensive. In some cases it may be but sometimes it is cheaper. Check their wholesale price list. Quite a number of catering contractors also use several Fairtrade products for use in hospitals, staff restaurants etc. In any case, there is a principal to be considered. If the standard product is cheaper it could be that the growers are not getting a good price for their products. The profit could be going elsewhere. With Fairtrade the growers are guaranteed a good deal. Have a look at the Fairtrade website for some information on products and suppliers. http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/products/default.aspx Locally, Bookers stock some Fairtrade products too.

      Another step you might like to take is to ask the staff to have a Fairtrade beverage club for their refreshments during breaks. Then, you should consider becoming a Fairtrade School. You can find out how to do this on the Fairtrade Foundation’s website http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/schools/default.aspx. You might like to have a talk with Thriftwood School as it was the first school in Essex to become a Fairtrade School. Some other schools in Chelmsford are also working towards Fairtrade status. Please keep us informed of progress and don’t forget Fairtrade Fortnight is taking place from 27 February – 11 March 2012.

  2. Student1 says:

    I live in Chelmsford but I attend Southend High for Boys. I was just wondering what links you have with our group, the Southend-on-Sea Fairtrade Network, and other groups around the county. I think that if we built up enough momentum, we could become a Fairtrade county, but we need the right kind of network

    Thank You!

    • Malcolm Wallace says:

      How right you are. Chelmsford did call a meeting of all the Fairtrade groups in Essex and we did have a couple of useful meetings. Unfortunately, we had difficulty in getting a room for the third meeting and a very heavy workload overtook us.The contacts for the Essex sites are elsewhere on the website and they are all doing a great job. We are still keen to make Essex a fairtrade County but we do need more local groups in those parts of the county that still have to get Fairtrade status, Malcolm Wallace, Chelmsford City Fairtrade Campaign.

  3. WickfordFairtradeSupporter says:

    A few of us here in Wickford want to start a Fairtrade group to try and get our town Fairtrade status, but we have a few questions.
    First of all, do we have to register with the Foundation to become a Fairtrade campaign group or not?
    Secondly, who should we get to come to our first meeting, what sort of issues should we deal with immediately, and do you have any ideas on getting the word out to everyone in town about the campaign group and how to join up?
    Thank you in advance

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