Trading for change -from the cellar to the centre of Leeds!
'Fair trade and ethical business issues are now on the scene', says Rob Greenland, Business Development Co-ordinator of the community co-operative Trade for Change, on moving into prominent premises in the centre of Leeds. 'Importantly, we are now seen as part of the Leeds retail sector, not as some eccentric cellar dwellers on the fringes of the city'.
The new location, opposite the Corn Exchange, signals a big expansion for the co-op, from its former small basement, bringing fair trade into the heart of the vibrant city of Leeds, and to a wider audience.
Trade for Change runs a fair trade shop, which sells home-furnishings, jewellery, crafts and music, with many goods sourced from BAFTS-endorsed suppliers. As part of the expansion, the co-op is now running a café, as well. Alongside the offering of fair trade teas, coffees, hot chocolate, are cakes, snacks, soups, salads and global dishes. All use fair trade ingredients, where possible, otherwise, TFC uses organic and/or locally sourced ingredients. To complement the fair trade food aspect, TFC now also offers a catering service called, appropriately, Fair Do's, and a delivery service aimed at businesses, churches and other organisations who buy tea and coffee in bulk.
The expansion has not been without its challenges, however. Rob says 'It certainly hasn't been easy so far. We missed out on a lot of the Christmas rush as our move was delayed from August to November, and the set up costs have put a strain on our finances. We've had break-ins and any number of problems with the building. Above all, such rapid change and growth are not easy to manage'.
Yet despite the difficulties, TFC has every reason for optimism. The co-op has tripled its voluntary staff to 80 and all are kept busy in their new high profile location and with associated activities. Business is brisk with a doubling in shop-sales, while the bustling café is winning clients new to fair trade and organic food. The co-operative is bringing fair trade to the high street, and to people previously unfamiliar with the term. And, crucially, TFC is doubling orders to producers.
The co-operative, which was formed in 1995, raised £50,000 for the expansion through their share fund. Their co-operative and ethical ideals are matched by a commitment to build a robust business; TFC aims to be a viable, fair trade business, with a triple bottom line approach of people, planet, profit. Judging by the response so far, it seems a formula the people of Leeds are warming to, which is good news for fair trade.
Rob wonders: 'what does the future hold for fair trade? Will we ever be part of the mainstream sector? Are we driving fair trade forward, or are we hopeless idealists?' The proof as they say, is in the pudding (fair trade, of course!)
Trade for Change is an Industrial and Provident Society (community co-op) owned by 550 people who have invested amounts from £30 in the future of the co-op. TFC welcomes new members - if you would like more information, contact Ruth or Rob. Trade for Change, 20 New Market St, Leeds LS1 6DG Tel: 0113 2425356 Fax:0113 2446986 http://www.gn.apc.org/tradeforchange
Go Fairly Bananas!
The UK's first Fairtrade Mark bananas went on sale 17 January in over 1000 Co-op outlets, signalling a breakthrough in the campaign to support small independent producers, over multinational corporations to supply the nation's favourite fruit.
The mark, awarded by the UK's fair trade labelling body, the Fairtrade Foundation, is in recognition of the fair deal to independent producers from Costa Rica and Ghana, who are disadvantaged by the trading system, and the economies of scale achieved by industrial banana producers, such as Chiquita.
Although bananas are the number one fruit consumed in the UK, with every Briton eating an average 30lbs per year, and despite world demand doubling over the last ten years, banana producers get a raw deal. In fact it is enough to make anyone choke on their non-fair trade fruit, to discover that to achieve the apparent cheap price of industrial bananas, there are considerable hidden 'costs' which effectively make such products subsidised and discounted. Here, lower production costs are achieved through producers being poorly paid, enduring inferior and hazardous working and living conditions, and even subsidising the product with their own health: high banana productivity is aided by heavy exposure to chemical pesticides (many of which are banned in so-called developed countries for being too dangerous to human health, ironically). It is no coincidence either that the world's three largest banana producers; Chiquita, Dole, Del Monte, which control nearly half of the European market, refuse to recognise trade unions.
However, more encouraging is the fact that six out of ten UK shoppers say they would like to buy fair trade bananas, according to Phil Wells, Director of the Fairtrade Foundation. And if we do, other supermarkets will soon be following the Co-op's lead- Sainsbury's is already. The future could look decidedly brighter for these small producers, if we choose to support them in their responsible methods of farming - the Ghana producers are planning to go organic, and their community-focused initiatives.
Choosing how to consume, in this era of globalisation and high consumerism is probably the most political and empowering action the individual can undertake.
Fairtrade Mark bananas join Fairtrade tea, coffee and chocolate on the Co-op's shelves (if you can't see any in yours, ask the manager). They cost £1.30 per kilo, compared to 99p per kilo for the non-fair trade variety. Perhaps it's less a case of paying more for fair trade, but asking ourselves - can we really afford to pay less? By the way, the fair trade variety taste better than Chiquita's, so why not help them sell out quickly?! (See delicious banana dosa (sweet pancake) recipe on the back page)
For more details on Fairtrade Mark bananas, see:
For details of ongoing campaigns about bananas/ producers/ multinationals see:
National Fairtrade Fortnight 2000 March 619
'Taste the Difference Make the Difference'
The first National Fairtrade Fortnight of the new millennium aims to be the biggest and best campaign yet to promote awareness of the Fairtrade Mark the consumer label that guarantees a better deal for Third World producers. Supermarkets, development agencies and women's organisations are committed to giving the Fairtrade Mark its highest visibility to date, through special promotions and campaigns over the two-week period.
The theme of the fortnight is 'taste the difference, make the difference'. With the focus on chocolate and cocoa farmers, the campaign aims to promote how we can all make a positive change in the new millennium and buy fair trade chocolate. Apart from being delicious, of course, buying fair trade chocolate and cocoa supports small-scale farming, which is inherently more sustainable than large-scale industrial agriculture, and more people-friendly, too.
With support from the major development agencies, including CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, People and Planet, Tearfund, Traidcraft Exchange and World Development Movement, Fairtrade Fortnight will be the subject of individual supporter and local group campaigns. Agency supporters will be encouraged to set up stands in participating supermarket stores such as Sainsbury's, Tesco and Co-op, while Waitrose are organising chocolate tastings. These and other supermarkets will also display promotions of the Fairtrade Mark alongside relevant products and organise different Fairtrade promotions.
The Fairtrade Foundation will also be encouraging Oxfam shops, health food shops, one world shops and fair trade shops to display posters and literature over the Fortnight. Through organised events, displayed materials in churches and media coverage, the campaign aims to reach 3 million people.
Contact the Fairtrade Foundation for literature and promotional material for your shop, on 0171 405 5942.
Freshen Up Fairtrade competition
As part of Fairtrade Fortnight, Cafedirect is launching a competition for people to come up with creative ways to promote fair trade. The objective is to maximise awareness of fair trade and fair trade products to the maximum number of people, ideally new users.
The competition is open to groups as well as individuals and the prize of a seat in the House of Commons will be awarded to the best group and best individual entry. The competitors must come up with an idea to promote fair trade and actually execute the idea during the fortnight. All entries must be returned by 3 April with corroborative evidence (video, press cuttings, tape recordings).
The entries will be whittled down to a short list of 6 group and 6 individual entries which will be presented to a judging panel. The panel will base their judgement on creativity, numbers reached and type of audience reached. The prize is lunch at the House of Commons with George Foulkes MP, Parliamentary under-secretary to Clare Short. The competition is generic and not Cafedirect / Teadirect specific. Now who could turn down such a tempting prize?!
Cafedirect will be sending out some info to BAFTS members, early Feb, so it's time to get those thinking caps on
For more information, you can also check out Cafedirect's website: http://www.cafedirect.co.uk
Biosafety Protocol Victory
An important victory has occurred at the UN summit in Montreal -with the agreement to adopt a Biosafety Protocol -after an unexpected climb down from a coalition of GM-exporting countries, led by the US. The protocol will allow countries to apply a 'precautionary principle' and reject GM imports of foodstuffs if they think there is a risk to safety. It will also oblige all shipments to be labelled stating products may contain GM organisms.
The debate regarding the protocol had become polarised between countries which objected to restrictions of GM foods, mainly GM-exporting countries, who cited violation of World Trade Organisation rules, and those who were calling for greater regulation and control of GM foods, such as Europe and many Third World countries. The Environment Minister, Michael Meacher, said 'it is official that the environment rules aren't subordinate to the trade rules'. Environmental campaigners are hailing the protocol as a critical check on the power of the WTO. Meanwhile, it is a severe blow to the already beleaguered biotech industry.
I Should Cocoa!
The Co-op has done it again! Hot on the heels of the successful launch of the fair trade banana in January, the Co-operative Wholesale Society has launched another supermarket first with its own-brand Fairtrade Mark chocolate.
In association with the Day Chocolate Company, which produces Divine chocolate, CWS launched the 45g milk chocolate bar during Fairtrade Fortnight, to raise awareness in Co-op stores about the exploitation of Third World cocoa producers. Not only are conditions harsh and often dangerous, but when the price for cocoa on the volatile world markets crashes, vulnerable producers are the worst hit.
Chocoholics, however, will be delighted to learn that CWS fair trade chocolate is made from cocoa from small-scale producers in Ghana, who are given a decent, guaranteed price for their crops. Furthermore, the 30,000 strong Ghana co-operative is effectively a trading-partner with the Day Chocolate Company, as they are shareholders as well as producers. In this way, they are stakeholders in the company and have a real say as to how it is run, as well as enjoying the 10-20% premium over world market prices for cocoa, which is channelled into community resources.
Terry Hudghton, Corporate Marketing Manager, CWS, said: 'consumers are increasingly concerned about ethical issues and we're delighted to be launching the first mainstream own-label Fairtrade Mark product so soon after we introduced Britons to their first taste of fair trade bananas'.
New price stability pact for coffee producers
In response to crumbling prices for coffee on the world markets, major coffee producing nations have come together to sign a price support agreement. Following the success of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in doubling oil prices recently by restricting output, coffee-producing countries, led by the biggest producer, Brazil, plan to cut exports to drive coffee prices up.
In the next few weeks, members of the Association of Coffee Producing Countries (ACPC) will formalise plans to restrict output, which will come into force in October. The ACPC has agreed to withhold up to 20% of production from the market in an attempt to support the price. Members of the organisation, using a variety of prices, have calculated a reference point of 95 cents per pound as the 'floor' and 105 cents as the 'ceiling'.
Critically, ACPC has the support of sympathetic non-members, such as Mexico and Guatemala, who have pledged not to take advantage of ACPC export cuts by producing more coffee.
The agreement could make all the difference to the smallest coffee producers -particularly sub-Saharan countries, which are virtually 'one-crop' economies. Falling world prices have a devastating effect on these economies. In 1998 when coffee prices crashed, Uganda's foreign exchange earnings plummeted, as the commodity accounts for more than two thirds of its export earnings.
Coffee prices have plummeted from a high of 240 cents per pound in the early 1980s, to a low of 50 cents in 1992. During the 1990s, prices peaked in response to a Brazilian frost, and a previous attempt at price support, though have declined steadily since 1997.
The volatility of the coffee market, and its effect on vulnerable producers has long been a concern, and price support mechanisms were first suggested by John Maynard Keynes at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944. However, consequent attempts to stabilise prices have often been frustrated by wealthy nations such as the US. Should the agreement prove successful, retail coffee prices are bound to rise for western consumers, but will probably be checked by competition on the high street.
The new agreement however, is good news for coffee producers, particularly the marginal and poorest producers.
US neem patent revoked
After six years of battles in the courts, the controversial neem patent has been revoked. The European Patent Office revoked the neem patent, granted to the US department of agriculture and a multinational corporation, WR Grace, after a successful legal challenge by a coalition of environmental and social organisations.
At the conclusion of a two-day hearing, the EPO panel rejected the patent on grounds of 'lack of novelty and originality' after the Indian testimony on prior knowledge of the fungicidal and insecticidal properties of neem. Vandana Shiva, the Indian environmentalist who fronts the Research Foundation which initially lodged the opposition to the patent said: ' we were certain from the beginning that the US patent did not satisfy the basic requirements for a patent. How could they say they invented something which has been in public use for centuries and on which modern scientific research has been carried out in the country for decades? The neem patents are a clear case of piracy of Indian indigenous knowledge.'
A statement from Linda Bullard, President of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement, one of the organisations challenging the patent, said: 'this is a great day not only for us but for all people throughout the world, especially for the Third World, who have been fighting to take back control of their resources and knowledge systems from the patent regimes of the north.'
Revocation of this neem patent is likely to have implications for future cases of biopiracy, and the TRIPS review (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights).
The ingredients behind the products: The story of neem
Some species become especially important as a resource to the communities where they grow, and neem, Azadirachta indica is one such species. It is thought to have originated in Asia, and some believe it to be a species native to the subcontinent.
Neem grows almost anywhere in the lowland tropics, so is a tree with a wide distribution. But it is also a tree uniquely suited to the wide variety of ecological and climatological conditions found in one part of India to another. It is most commonly found in stony, clayey, saline and dry soils, and is ideally able to exploit arid conditions courtesy of a tap root twice the length of the tree at grown height (20 metres). With long tap roots, water and nutrients deep in the ground can be used by the tree. Neem is also a species that can tolerate infertile soils, extreme heat, and acid soils. The few conditions neem can't tolerate are frost and cold, waterlogging and altitudes above 1500 metres.
Given neem is such a tolerant and versatile species, it is no surprise that it is a common sight all over the plains of India. Another reason for its widespread distribution is its amazing variety of uses by the human species. Over the millennia of its cultivation, it has come to be regarded by communities all over the Subcontinent as an essential resource; so important for a wide variety of medicinal properties that cure a load of ailments, it is commonly known as 'the village pharmacy' and revered by Indians. The thousands of chemicals in this species make it ideal for medicinal and other applications particularly as insecticides and fungicides as part of a traditional agricultural system.
Also a fast-growing tree, which can yield high volumes of timber on pollarding and coppicing (cutting) cycles of 7 to 10 years, its wood is prized for religious carvings, and after ten years of age bears high volumes of fruit. Every part of the tree has a use; fruits, flowers, bark, seeds, wood, leaves are exploited. But neem is perhaps most commonly seen as twigs dangling from sleepy mouths -In the morning, twigs are tweaked off trees and used to clean teeth.
With its multitude of uses -neem as an all-purpose cure, as a food, as an accessory to puja, (worship), used in fertility rituals, in religious carving, to remove evil, and sometimes just for its marvellous shade, neem is a critical resource for Indians. Which perhaps explains the recent uproar by Indian environmental organisations over the rush to patent neem for a variety of properties by multinational corporations in the 'north' and who would claim neem as their own invention.
As another article here relays the biopiracy saga, all that is left to mention is that currently, the government of India is researching ways of better exploiting this versatile species for the benefit of India. But there are already some places where neem-based products, which benefit the communities from where they come, are available for sale in the UK:
BAFTS members produce enterprising solutions!
It's official! This is what fair traders can achieve as two BAFTS members have just confirmed, prize-winners in the 'Enterprising Solutions' award, sponsored by NatWest and the Directory for Social Change.
Bishopston Trading Company and Gateway World Shop featured among six overall finalists, chosen by a panel of judges that included representatives from IFAT, Oxfam, New Economics Foundation and Day Chocolate Company. Bishopston gained runner-up position and Gateway came joint third with the others, both taking away a £500 prize.
Entrants were required to present a three year forward plan, describe their objectives and achievements and say how they would use the prize money.
Gateway World Shop aims to increase turnover by 10% every year for the next three years, increase profits and fund more educational and awareness work, because as we all know, more informed consumers make preferential choices for fairly-traded goods. GWS also plans to increase its direct importing from southern producers, increase pay to staff, and carry on its support of the fair trade movement by its continued work with and for BAFTS.
Bishopston Trading, the workers' co-operative which markets clothes, is geared up for growth. Working in partnership with producers in south India, BT provides design, pattern cutting and marketing support.
After a difficult time during the recession in the early 1990s, Bishopston managed to survive and grow and now seems poised to develop further. The £500 prize money is going towards a new dyeing unit in K.V Kuppam as part of a new phase of growth.
It is excellent news that the overall winner, while not a member of BAFTS, is another fair trade organisation-Tropical Wholefoods. Good to see fair trade 'out there' getting discussed and recognised. Well done to you all for the fair trade clean-up!
The squandered summit
At the close of the Okinawa G8 Summit, there was a failure to agree a new deal on debt cancellation, despite pressure from the high profile Jubilee 2000 campaign, and despite little progress being made on last year's pledge. Last year in Cologne, the G8 announced a plan to cancel $100 billion in debt, but on progress to date, they will achieve no more than $15 billion by the end of 2000.
While no new deal was worked out for debt cancellation, never let it be said that the poor of the world are not in the forefront of the G8 leaders' concerns, by the bizarre G8 pledge to tackle the 'digital divide' instead. Jubilee 2000 UK Director, Ann Pettifor, said: 'after their complete failure on debt, the G8 leaders have no credibility at all. If they are hungry, the poorest people in the world cannot eat laptops. An internet connection will not help them survive malaria or TB. Of course information technology is important. But until they drop the debt, these G8 gestures are empty.'
Meanwhile, the cost of hosting the summit was $750 million - this amount could have been used to totally cancel the servicing of debt for one year of Cambodia, Laos, Guyana, Rwanda, Zambia, Nicaragua, Benin, and Haiti.
EU money for BAFTS/ RISC project
After much uncertainty, EU money has come through to fund a BAFTS / RISC collaboration. The three-year project 'Fair Trade on the High Street' aims to use fair trade shops to increase consumer understanding of the principles and practice of fair trade.
RISC (Reading International Solidarity Centre) with its experience in education projects, along with the BAFTS network of shops, aim to raise awareness of fair trade amongst the general public, and explore issues of globalisation and consumption.
An integral part of the project will be the development of a range of resources such as posters, leaflets, teaching activities, and also a website, which can be used by the BAFTS network, schools and community groups. Focusing on fair trade themes, the materials will look at the people behind a selection of fair trade products and emphasis will be on the personal stories of several producers.
In this way, we will be able to hear first hand, how the global economy affects Southern producers, the meaning of fair trade to their lives, and learn more about methods of production in the South.
The materials will also address the uneven patterns of consumption across the globe, by using the 'ecological footprint' concept, and encourage people to reduce their own.
Work is already underway; a conference is scheduled for June 2001, the website is being planned and a leaflet should be available by the end of the year. Liasing with other fair trade organisations is also on the agenda.
The project needs you!
Don't just sit there sipping your fair trade tea, why not contribute to the project and make it yours? Volunteers experienced in researching and/or writing materials are needed, as are people to promote the project and resources. Input is also welcomed from schools and community groups in the production and piloting of materials.
For more information, contact RISC tel: 0118 958 6692