Accessibility links

Breaking News

Fair Trade Campaign Kicks Off in Britain

Fair trade has become an increasingly important campaign in today's global market place. Its focus is the rights of millions of workers in developing countries who earn low wages and face harsh working conditions to produce low cost products many of us use every day, including tea, coffee or even flowers. Britain has been sponsoring a number of events to highlight the fair trade issue in a two-week long campaign.

If it's one thing most Britons cherish it's their cup of tea. So it's not surprising that the "Fairtrade Fortnight" kicked off with a tea ceremony - where hundreds of women dressed as tea ladies, dancing and offering cups of fair trade tea at venues across the country.

But, the campaign is more than tea dances - it seeks to offer farmers in developing countries a guaranteed premium for their products over and above market prices.

Comfort Kumeah has come here from her native Ghana, where she works on a cocoa plantation. She says until a few decades ago, cocoa growers had no choice but to sell their cocoa to the government at whatever price was offered.

"Farmers lives [were] miserable because the money they received was very little," she said.

As a result, 1,500 of these cocoa growers decided to form a co-operative, Kuapa Kokoo, that would sell its own cocoa. The co-operative has grown to include almost 45,000 Ghanaian workers who sell their cocoa to chocolate companies around the world who practice fair trade. And, they are now also the owners of one such company, Divine Chocolate. Kumeah says that turned things around.

"We benefit much from it because we are fair trade certified and on top of the market price we are paid premium and with that premium our lives have really improved," she added. "We've been able to build schools, we've been able to provide good drinking water, we've been able to provide good sanitation for our village communities."

In Britain, during this Fairtrade Fortnight, the humanitarian group, Oxfam is encouraging people to bring in their charity donations into Oxfam shops and they get a box of fair-trade tea in return.

Oxfam's Stuart Foukes explains how buying fair-trade products can make a difference.

"It enables people to use their powers as shoppers to actually support producers in the developing world in a real and practical and a very direct way and what it also means is that consumers can use their powers as shoppers to actually influence the way in which retailers and the way in which business goes about doing things," he noted.

Foukes says almost any purchase could be a fair trade one - pillowcases, chocolates, tea, coffee, flowers or even wine, but he says the campaign must grow and spread further.

"What we would really like to see you know is a commitment that everyone involved in the production of a product from producers and supplier right through to manufacturers until it ends up on the shelf you know is paid a fair wage and is treated the way one would hope they would be," he added.

Foukes says too many workers around the world are still deprived of decent working conditions and decent wages and he says the fair trade movement could make a significant difference for them.