Posted by Sophi:
Last week I attended the Fairtrade Foundation Commercial Conference in Kensington Town Hall. Among an impressive collection of commercial heavy hitters, it was Cornelius Lynch, the Manager of the National Fairtrade organisation in St Lucia who was the star of the show. He opened the day with his lilting Caribbean tones describing how they have been exporting their Fairtrade bananas since 2000, and his great satisfaction at seeing them on the shelves of supermarkets in the UK during his visit in Fairtrade Fortnight 2009. He gave a real sense of the impact this has had in his community, and how they are now in a position to diversify their crops. He did mention that the value of the Fairtrade price had deceased as the cost of inputs had increased, but the overall message was one of empowerment and progress.
It was also a treat to see Abi Petit the Managing Director of Gossypium the UK best loved Fairtrade clothing brand. She first worked in textiles in 1985 with Traidcraft and went on to establish Agrocel, the world’s first traceable cotton suppler. Her obvious passion for the project was contagious and her confidence in the continued growth of consumers who care was reassuring. She emphasized the importance of working with organised farmers who can decide how they use their money, and how nothing will really change until companies in the North relinquish their need to dominate.
One of the lovely newcomers to Fairtrade was Heather Masoud, Director of Zaytoun, the Palestinian Olive Oil that got Fairtrade certified this year and is now available from the Co-op, Ethical Superstore, and Traidcraft. Her account of the way Fairtrade had restored these farmers’ dignity was an inspiration and her description of the excellent olive oil made you want to rush out and get a bottle now.
With this year’s headline speakers including Waitrose MD Mark Price, the MD of Starbucks Darcy Willson-Rymer, and Todd Stitzer, CEO Cadbury, it all seemed a very far cry from this event nine years ago when a small number of committed Fairtrade businesses were debating how to stretch our meagre resources to achieve a National retail presence. Todd Stitzer kindly acknowledged the importance of Divine in his speech, and it was good to meet him afterwards. But I did come away from the event thinking: how amazing we have come this far – but have we secured the change we set out to achieve? Have the terms of trade changed, and do farmers now have a more equal and empowered position in the supply chain?