Next week sees the beginning of Fairtrade fortnight in the U.K. From the 6—19 March a series of events across the country will promote the importance of Fairtrade products. One of these is a photography exhibition in the Oxo Tower Gallery entitled Make Fairtrade Your Habit. Trevor Leighton has taken a series of portraits to highlight each celebrity's commitment to buying Fairtrade products. Portraits include Vic Reeves with a banana in his mouth, Anita Roddick with pineapple leaves sticking out of her's and Gail Porter with an organic cotton ball wig.
In an extensive article on the Fairtrade phenomenon in last weekend's Observer Food Monthly Andrew Purvis writes: 'Sales are rising by 50 per cent each year and now total £140m in Britain and $1bn across the developed world. Each day, we in the UK brew three million cups of Fairtrade hot drinks and munch our way through half a million certified bananas.' However Purvis goes on to question the effectiveness of the Fairtrade Organisation and other ethical labels that we believe are benefiting farmers in developing countries.Purvis specifies issues such as supermarket mark-ups on Fairtrade products which make them a fortune, with the farmers receiving relatively little in comparison since their prices are fixed. There is also the problem that 'Ninety-eight per cent of Fairtrade chocolate is manufactured and packaged in Europe,'Of the revenue generated by a £1.70 bar of Fairtrade chocolate, only five per cent (8.5p) remains in the country of origin while the rest is dispersed in wealthy northern nations.' This limits the amount of revenue going back to the farmers since they only sell cash crops not the 'finished products'.
The controversial decision to allow NestlÃ© to use the Fairtrade symbol has also caused problems. 'Last year, when Fairtrade granted NestlÃ© the use of its mark, it effectively split the movement in two Grassroots supporters believed the mark should never have been awarded to a company they considered unethical For many, the lone Fairtrade product in NestlÃ©'s 8,500-strong portfolio simply threw the rest of its business into sharper relief.' Deputy director of the Fairtrade Foundation, Ian Bretman, counters this argument by saying it is more important to get as many businesses on side as possible no matter their previous records. 'We don't feel bad about it, and this is a battle we intend to win. We want to get these people coming in on commercial grounds, we want to lock this into their core business - and I think that's now happening. We've already crossed these bridges working with Starbucks, the same debate about credibility. It's an ongoing discussion and part of a process.'
The more worrying issue for the Fairtrade Organisation is the growing number of ethical food labels. 'There is a danger that this multitude of ethical labels will waylay consumers and undermine trust. "What we don't want is 500 Fairtrade pretenders," says Harriet Lamb, "because then consumers will get confused, and become cynical, and give up on the whole thing."' However the general opinion is that Faritrade is having a positive effect, not only raising awareness of ethical trading for consumers, but also in concrete terms on the ground. 'Kwabena Ohemeng Tinyase, head of the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative, is telling me what we can do to help end poverty in Ghana. "My advice to all consumers of chocolate is to buy more Fairtrade products," he says. "It gives a clear social message and it has a clear social benefit. You will not only be eating chocolate but helping people who are trapped in poverty because of the world market price. All of us have to go shopping - and Fairtrade is simply shopping with respect."'
Read the Full Observer Food Monthly article by Andrew Purvis here.