Friday, May 09, 2008

Fairtrade Challenges

The highlight of today was a meeting of representatives of towns & cities across the North East at Durham to hear from George Alagiah, patron of the Fairtrade Foundation. He's probably better known for his day job as a news presenter and war correspondent on TV, but George is passionate about Fairtrade as a way out of conflict for the world. He pointed out that most conflict ultimately boils down to arguments about the distribution of resources and if that's done fairly then the reason for conflict disappears! Put like that it sounds simple but of course it isn't. Fairtrade helps about 7 million farmers and producers at present but there are still a couple of billion who need help. He also answered the criticism that Fairtrade stops people developing and expanding their range of produce because they're guaranteed a minimum price for what they're already producing. He went and asked Nicaraguan producers what they thought of that idea and they told him in no uncertain terms that the Fairtrade guarantee allows them to innovate and try new products, knowing that they've got a guaranteed income from the basic crop they produce. Those growers have diversified because of Fairtrade, not in spite of it.
George laid before us the challenges facing us over the next few years as activists and campaigners and left us feeling reinvigorated to do more.
The afternoon also gave us a chance to meet up with campaigners from around the Tees Valley and decide on our next move together, so a very worthwhile afternoon.
I know that other people went to listen to George speak at Hartlepool and no doubt will write about it in due course so I'll look forward to hearing what he said to motivate those who were not already involved.
Add to that a bit of filing done and some other jobs completed, and it was a very successful day.


Tristan said...

The only fair trade is free trade.

If cartels are preventing that its not free trade and setting up other cartels does not help.

Fair trade also imposes ideological conditions on producers - preventing them from organising as they wish.
It also drives others into poverty because they don't meet 'fair' trade's ideals.

We should be pushing for free trade, for removing the state boundaries which keep people in poverty, not setting up more boundaries and creating an elite (and distorting the market in the process).

Humans cannot rationally plan fair distribution - that is the source of conflict, fair trade just creates creater mal-distribution.

Maureen Rigg said...

I'm so sorry that you completely misunderstand the concept of Fairtrade. It's not in opposition to Free trade - in fact Fairtrade is the only genuine Free trade because trade can only be really free if it's between equals.
Fairtrade is a certification, not a cartel.
The only ideological condition imposed is that the spending of the Fairtrade premium has to be decided democratically, and that's an ideology I'm proud of.
Can I suggest some further reading so that I don't have to type several pages here: tells the story or if you want a book to take on the train to read try "Fighting The Banana Wars and Other Fairtrade Battles" by Harriet Lamb.