Good Food Blog
A Fair Trade-off?Posted at 10:31AM, 19 June 2008 by Karyn Miller - Journalist
According to new YouGov research, seven out of ten Brits would like retailers to do more to make sure suppliers treat their employees fairly. Well that's good to know.
Until you find our, almost half don't know that Fairtrade does just this, ensuring farmers are both treated and paid fairly. In fact, one in five admitted that they have 'no idea' what Fair Trade means.
But isn't Fairtrade is a roaring success story? More than 3,000 products bear the black, blue and green logo. And the UK has more than 300 Fairtrade towns, villages and boroughs, which have been awarded the status after meeting stringent criteria. In fact, clued-up consumers are now spending in excess of half a billion pounds on Fairtrade products every year.
I live in a 'Fairtrade borough', surrounded by farmland. Accredited products are readily available in our local shops and cafes, and a local 'steering group' monitors the area's continued commitment to its official Fairtrade status. Our farmers work hard to raise awareness of food and farming issues: that photogenic pig in wellies, selected as a mascot for the first fair price campaign for pork, is from these parts. So you'd think that here, of all places, people would be rooting for Fairtrade and would know its aims and benefits inside out.
However, this is not necessarily the case. A few days ago I sat in on a parish council meeting. Fairtrade was on the agenda, with local campaigners hoping that councillors would vouch support and agree to serve accredited tea and coffee at official functions. It was not to be.
'There are lots of Third World traders who are not in the scheme, therefore it's not actually fair', announced one councillor. With little debate, the council voted not to support the initiative. Spectators were incredulous.
Fairtrade has its critics, it's true. Earlier this year, one think tank claimed that the industry failed to aid long-term ecomomic development, by sustaining uncompetitive farming methods. (The Fairtrade Foundation hit back at what it called a 'misinformed paper'.)
And it's difficult to underplay the movement's achievements with studies detailing the multitude of ways in which it has transformed the lives of farmers and their families for the better.
Clearly, there is still work to be done when it comes to raising levels of awareness - even in supposedly 'Fairtrade-friendly' areas. What do you think of Fairtrade? Do you buy Fairtrade products or live in a Fairtrade area? How does the choice/ quality compare to other products?