I’m fed up of being nice about this. I try to do “my bit”, buying Fairtrade coffee (amongst other products) to help people out of poverty.
But after watching Black Gold on Tuesday, I realised what a feeble effort this is, and that I have to do more to make other people change their buying habits.
The price difference is now so marginal between Fairtrade products and non-Fairtrade alternatives that it cannot be much of an issue for most people.
As consumers we have the power to give people a better life. We have demanded our goods at artificially low prices for too long and multinational corporations have been all too obliging. It’s the producers who are paying, both a home and abroad. And I would expect those of us from rural communities to be more empathetic about the situation, considering what our own farmers go through.
It’s not charity: it’s justice. Fairtrade allows profits to seep back to the producers and their communities, so they build bette lives. They’re not expecting or even wanting enough money to go on holiday or even get electricity. They just want to be able to afford food, clean water and to send their children to school.
Our governments in the ‘First World’ have set up the global trading system in our favour, according to our rules. It is precisely because of this that the ‘Third World’ are in this position. We may not have explicitly said that this is what we wanted, but we benefit from their loss. But I believe it is possible to live in win-win world.
So do your bit: buy Fairtrade products wherever they are available. You can get coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas, clothes, and Tate & Lyle are about to change their entire production to Fairtrade: the biggest commitment by any of the major players. The Cooperative supermarket is also doing a lot for Fairtrade, changing all their own-brand tea and coffee over. Personally I would prefer to stay away from the big multinational-branded Fairtrade products altogether, and support the companies that only produce Fairtrade, such as Cafedirect, Equal Exchange, and the Day Chocolate Company. I think I’ll support Tate & Lyle for what they’re doing. Maybe it’ll lead to organic products too.
And it’s not just about the third world: small producers in this country are in poverty too. Help these farmers by buying locally-sourced meat at your local butchers, and use a local farmers’ market for other products.
Fairtrade is gaining ground and taking up a bigger chunk of the market share, but it’s a trend that needs to continue.