27 February 2015

Fairtrade Fortnight, runs 23 February - 8 March

Let me start with a shocking statement:
I don't always buy Fairtrade products.
This is usually met with disbelief, shock, horror, downright amazement. However, there are some very valid reasons behind that statement, it's not just there for the shock value.

Fairtrade is wonderful, the organisation has fantastic aims and has made an incredible difference to thousands of people's lives.

But I have mixed views about Fairtrade or to be more precise I have problems with some of the retailers of Fairtrade. Despite how wonderful Fairtrade is I believe 'charity' begins at home. When something is produced in the UK as well as overseas I will always buy British especially when that something comes from our agricultural industry. My problems with Fairtrade began when our only local supermarket at the time (the Co-op) began selling Fairtrade above all other products, including British produced ones. For example Silver Spoon sugar disappeared from the shelves to be replaced with Fairtrade sugar, similar cost, not really any difference in quality or flavour so what's the problem? I prefer to support British farmers and choose to buy produce with the Red Tractor symbol. Our farmers play a vital role in keeping our countryside the green and pleasant patchwork we know and love (they don't do it alone, I work at CJS so I know just how many people, organisations, volunteers, funds, agencies etc., etc., are involved!). It's not an idyllic playground but a working factory and the managers of that factory are frequently struggling and I want to support them and in so doing keep the familiar diverse landscape and all that it supports - from people to beetles and everything in between. I fear that sometimes we can get caught up in the feel good factor of organisations such as Fairtrade at the expense of homegrown. It's human nature to like the positive glow of feeling "I've done something good" by supporting this cause or that charity but unfortunately sometimes we are unaware of the impact of that elsewhere; we automatically assume that supporting a good cause is the end of it, that something like Fairtrade is only competing with nasty big exploitative business, but sometimes, just sometimes it's not.

Having said all that and torn apart the system I'll put it back together!
Support your local producers first. The more local to you the better, go back on the high street and buy meat from known sources, swap veggies with your neighbour, support your milkman (a rarity these days - we are so fortunate), buy British seasonal flowers for Mother's Day instead of hothoused ones from overseas, in the supermarket look for the Red Tractor and RSPCA freedom food labels to support British farmers or the MCS ecolabel for certified sustainable fish. And when it comes time for pineapples and bananas (or chocolate or cotton or coffee or tea or....) then look for the Fairtrade label and support this excellent cause.

But, please,

let fair trade begin at home.