The stars of the 2009 Fairtrade conference

Posted by Sophi:

Kuapa Kokoo President Mr Buah outside Kensington Town Hall where the Fairtrade Commercial Conference took place

Kuapa Kokoo President Mr Buah outside Kensington Town Hall where the Fairtrade Commercial Conference took place

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?


6 Responses to The stars of the 2009 Fairtrade conference

  1. Scott says:

    HI Sophi,

    Great to read your perspectives on the Fairtrade (or is it Fair Trade?) Commercial Conference.

    Your choice of those that had the most significant impact on your thinking is interesting. I was wondering why you chose to single out Cornelius, Abi, and Heather. Was there something particular about these people or what they represent that resonated with your thinking?

    Your final reflections are revealing…Are you sensing that fair trade in 2009 has not secured the change you believe it set out to achieve? I assume you mean changing the terms of trade and supporting farmers to have a more equal and empowered position in the supply chain?

    As a trade and market-based strategy for social change is it still progressing toward these achievements or has its aims changed also?

    • Sophi Tranchell says:

      Hello Scott
      The Fairtrade Commercial Conference is an opportunity for the Fairtrade Foundation to showcase its successes to Fairtrade licencees (ie those businesses with products that carry the Mark). I picked out those particular speakers from the line – up at the Conference as it was, as always, most inspiring to hear farmers speak for themselves and from those businesses who work closely with farmers on the ground .

      I ask the question at the end as I think it’s important for Fairtrade (ie Fairtrade – the movement and certification system here in UK, and part of FLO) to keep re-visiting its ultimate aim and ensuring the movement is heading in the right direction . Fairtrade is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Farmers having a more equal and empowered position in the supply chain is certainly what Divine has signed up to.

  2. Scott says:

    HI Sophi,

    Many thanks for taking the time to respond and answer to my questions.

    I am curious that you use the phrasing “Fairtrade” and not “Fair Trade” to describe the movement AND the certification scheme…Am I correct in assuming that you see them as one and the same thing?

    Just a thought


    • Sophi Tranchell says:

      Hi Scott
      Yes we do make the distinction between Fairtrade, the certification body, and fair trade, the movement. Fairtrade is a very recognised term here though, so tends to be a bit interchangeable – as there are Fairtrade Towns, Schools, Cities etc
      Best regards

  3. Angela Feaviour says:

    Ihave just enjoyed some time reading the above. I am a supporter and will be attending the Supporters Conference in London on Saturday, really looking forward to it. I tend to agree that so far we have not changed unfair trading rules in general but I always tell my friends everytime you buy a fairtrade certified product you are saying you want trade justice for marginalised farmers. Kind regards, Angela

    • charlottejb says:

      Hello Angela
      Thanks for your comment and your support! Look out for Divine at the Conference tomorrow.

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