24 May CUMBRIA FAIR TRADE NETWORK AGM
Members of the Keswick Fair Trade Campaign attended the AGM of the Cumbria Fair Trade Network in Ambleside on Saturday. The network is an alliance of like-minded groups, all of which are promoting Fairtrade and Trade Justice around the county. It was formed in January 2004 principally through the inspiration and hard work of Joe Human from Keswick.
The speaker at the AGM was Kevin McCullough, Head of Campaigns at the Fairtrade Foundation. He said he had been told that the Cumbria Fairtrade Network was the jewel in the crown of Fairtrade campaigners in the UK. This put those attending on their metal! His talk gave us a good dealof food for thought and also a surge of energy.
Bernadette Fagan, a Keswick Campaigner, said: “It was uplifting to hear from Kevin McCullough that Cumbria is the leading Fairtrade County in the Country. And it was good to be reminded that the impact of Fairtrade on the lives of some of the poorest producers in the world is profound, and that we can all support producers by looking for the Fairtrade Logo and purchasing Fairtrade products in our weekly shopping.”
Fairtrade has been hugely successful in gaining recognition for its work in supporting small scale farmers and workers who are marginalised from trade in a variety of ways and carefully monitoring the impact of Fairtrade on these communities. The movement began soon after the Second World War and then in 1997 the worldwide association, Fairtrade Labelling International (FLO, now Fairtrade International) was created. Today, Fairtrade International sets international standards for several Fair Trade products. FLO-CERT, an independent certification and verification organisation, uses the Fairtrade standards in certifying production and auditing trade.
There are now 1.65 million producers certified to sell into the Fairtrade market: however, the value of their sales is only a small percentage of the value of world trade. In recent years Fairtrade products have become mainstream with big companies such as Mars, Nestle and Cadbury having some of their products Fairtrade certified, and supermarkets having their own brands certified. This has led to an expansion of the market for the producers, but it has also led to what some have seen as the dilution of the purity of the movement. The most worrying move has been the withdrawal from Fairtrade certification for its own brand teas by Sainsbury.
Kevin McCullough helped members of the CFTN to face the new challenges to Fairtrade. He pointed out that Cafe Direct, which only deals in Fairtrade products, is doing well. He also told us of the care that the Fairtrade Foundation takes to ensure that when they work with the big companies and supermarkets , that they maintain the values of Fairtrade. These include democratic decision making, so that farmers may have a say in how the Fairtrade Premiums are invested. They also include requirements for capacity building and economic strengthening of the organization. Fairtrade standards for hired labour situations specify that employees receive minimum wages and collective bargaining. The standards also specify that Fairtrade-certified plantations should have no forced or child labour and that health and safety requirements are met. In a hired labour situation, Fairtrade standards require a “joint body” to be set up with representatives from both the management and the employees.