An invitation to churches to take action
What is Fairtrade?
Look at the Fairtrade mark alongside; it says “Guarantees a better deal for Third World Producers”. Fairtrade does exactly what it says on the label!
Many farmers in the poorer countries of South America, Africa, and Asia have to contend with fluctuating prices that may not cover the costs of producing their crop. Fairtrade promises that these farmers will receive a stable price which covers production costs plus an additional amount to invest in the business or the locality.
Fairtrade is defined as an alternative approach to conventional international trade. Fairtrade is a trading partnership which aims at sustainable development for excluded and disadvantaged producers. It seeks to do this by providing better trading conditions, by awareness training, and by campaigning.
Some people will ask if the Fairtrade system can be trusted — it can. Fairtrade has clear standards; independent organisations oversee the system (in the UK this is the Fairtrade Foundation). Independent monitoring ensures that Fair Trade principles are met and that individual producers benefit, for producers themselves are involved in the process.
Fairtrade works by paying producers a fair price guaranteed to be above the world price and to cover the costs of production. A premium is paid above the main price to allow business or community development. Fairtrade gives producers a continuing contract to enable security and investment. Producers must belong to democratic organisations which decide how the premium is spent; these are usually co-operatives. Labour standards are high, trades unions are recognised, there is no forced or child labour, and no discrimination in employment. Fairtrade producers support environmental sustainability.
Why should churches support Fairtrade?
The principles on which Fairtrade is founded are consistent with Christian thinking. The Fairtrade process involves social responsibility, democracy, empowerment, self-help, and mutual care — all these ways of working stem from Biblical teaching. Fairtrade products are excellent - they taste good! Buying Fairtrade food and drink usually means buying higher quality; small producers working on farms in which they have a real personal interest will take more care over their produce. Fewer pesticides tend to be used in Fairtrade products and so our environment is protected. Above all, the Fairtrade system values people as the beloved children of God and does not subject them to wage-slavery or inhumane treatment. The advantages of Fairtrade go beyond the farm as the system invests in the community helping poorer people to have education, medical services, and a higher quality of life.
Support materials and information on fair trading are available from the Fairtrade Foundation.
Goods are available from traidcraft.co.uk Many supermarkets stock fairly-traded items.
The aim of the campaign is not just to change the way in which we do things in church but to help us to change our lifestyle; to think more globally, and to give greater consideration to the Third World when we are shopping.
Fairness in trade is not only a matter of supporting Third World producers; farming in Britain is in crisis too. Global competition and the concentration on low prices by supermarkets means that some farmers in Britain do not receive a fair price for their produce. A secondary theme of the campaign is to encourage everyone to buy locally-produced foodstuffs wherever possible. We have a rich heritage of food and drink in Sussex and it is important to support local farmers and those who are employed in local distribution and retailing.
There is a difference between Fairtrade and Trade Justice although both have similar humanitarian and caring aims. Fairtrade is a way for us all to make a contribution towards bettering the lives of people in poorer countries.
Trade Justice is a global challenge calling for changes in international rules on trading which, presently, tend to benefit richer countries to the detriment of poorer ones. Current trade agreements tend to give priority to the liberalisation and deregulation of trade to give greater advantage to larger, multi-national businesses. Such approaches can have negative effects on poorer countries and lead to lack of economic sustainability.
The Trade Justice Movement is a partnership of organisations committed to better trading conditions for everyone; partners include Christian Aid, CAFOD, Traidcraft, Tearfund, and the World Development Movement. Campaigning calls for fair international agreements on trade, for democratic negotiation, for action to eradicate poverty, for the promotion of sustainability and environmental protection, and for diversity.
For more information on Trade Justice see: tjm.org.uk