York Fair Trade Forum were giving away fairly traded bananas which had been kindly donated by Waitrose and Sainsbury, who sell fair trade bananas among other fairly traded items on their shelves.
York has been a Fair Trade City for almost 20 years so what is Fair Trade, why is it important and what are the items we can buy in York which can be fairly traded?
Items in York cover food, cotton items, jewellery, wine, flowers and of course, chocolate. You can tell they are Fair Trade by looking for the Fair Trade Mark.
The mark stands for workers rights, safer working conditions and fairer pay. The countries where Fair Trade is most active are among the poorest countries in the world. Families often have to have their children working to be able to afford to eat, so school becomes impossible and those children’s opportunity to improve their lives in the future is much reduced.
Fairtrade works mainly with farmers’ cooperatives – individual farmers joining together to work cooperatively. Each farmer receives an individual price for their harvest. If the market price falls, they are protected against this and if the prices rise, they can earn more. The collective also receives an amount to spend – known as the premium – to spend in their community in the best way for them. Sometimes they build a classroom, sometimes they buy school uniforms for the children (Fair Trade makes it possible for children to attend school rather than work) or, in one case, banana farmers in a poor community discovered that the ‘middle man’ who bought their bananas, weighed them and paid the farmers by weight before selling to the company exporting them, was using false scales and not paying them fairly. The community used their premium to buy accurate scales and found their income improved greatly.
Fair Trade is also better for the planet. Over 25%of the requirements for a Fair Trade label relate to environmental care and sadly many of the farmers are, themselves, bearing the brunt of climate change.
For the farmers growing our tea, coffee and sugar, the sad fact is that only 10% of the very many millions of cups drunk each day in the UK are identified as Fair Trade. It would be great to support those venues in York which use Fair Trade produce more often so that the farmers who provide for our daily needs can be properly paid.
If you would like to know more, have a look at York Fair Trade Forum website and come along to one of our meetings held at the West Offices. www.yorkfairtradeforum.org.uk