Guest blogger Gareth Thomas, Minister for Trade and Development at DFID

 

Gareth Thomas

Gareth Thomas

 

Sweet Success of Fairtrade

With chocolate being one of my guilty pleasures, I was delighted to be asked to become a guest blogger for Divine this week!

As a Minister in the Government’s Department for International Development, I am responsible for, amongst other things, fair and ethical trade. It is a part of my job that gives me a huge sense of pride when I consider how far we’ve come on Fairtrade in the past decade but it is one where we are facing up to the challenges of the future. 

Ten years ago there was little opportunity for shoppers to buy Fairtrade goods off the shelves of shops and supermarkets in the UK but now, thanks to companies like Divine, shoppers in this country can make a decision to support producers in poor countries through their everyday purchases.  The pioneering work of fair trade companies has definitely led the way for mainstream manufacturers and retailers to get involved in fair trade too.

I am pleased that even in testing economic times, the public is not turning away from Fairtrade products. Sales increased by 43 per cent last year and large producers continue to work with farmers, growers and manufacturers in some of the world’s poorest countries to ensure they are receiving a fair deal for their products. 

The Department for International Development is committed to supporting fair and ethical trade. In our recent White Paper we announced that we would quadruple funding for fair and ethical trade – this will take our funding to £18 million over the next four years. We want to see an even wider range of Fairtrade products on the shelves of UK shops – there are already Fairtrade pants, beer, oils and even vicar’s shirts, but I look forward to seeing the range continue to expand. There’s also much to do in raising awareness among the general public of how our daily purchases connect us to countries across the world through trade, and of how they can support development through their normal shopping.

On another note, I’m a Co-Operative MP myself, so I’m particularly impressed with the work of Kuapa Kokoo – a shining example of what can happen when a community cooperates together. For over 15 years, farmers have, through the Co-operative, worked together to increase the benefit and profit to the whole community. I believe that this kind of co-operative is more important than ever in the current economic climate and the ever increasing success of Divine shows that the Co-Operative model is still working well in the 21st century.

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