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Traidcraft chief defends Fairtrade mark

06 June 2014


From Mags Vaughan

Sir, - There has been much comment after the recent publication of the report from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) about the level of impact of the Fairtrade mark on poor communities. Given fair trade's humble beginnings - coffee and tea packed in brown paper and sold in the back of churches up and down the UK - it was good to see the issue raised (News, 30 May).

Traidcraft, as one of the first suppliers of those brown-paper packets, welcomes the SOAS report, which contributes to our greater understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the Fairtrade certification system. We believe, however, that great care should be taken before drawing conclusions from any single study about the impact of fair trade on the poor.

We should remember that this is a scheme that works within the current and very inequitable global food system. Fair trade originally set out not just to benefit poor farmers directly, but to create new trading systems and alternative forms of trade to provide a more level playing field for producers disadvantaged by existing trade rules.

Traidcraft focuses its efforts on this, and on developing long-term relationships with customers and producer groups. We know that these longer-term relationships provide greater benefits for disadvantaged families and communities, because we have seen the evidence for ourselves.

Let us remember the real scandal of trade and the poor. A few hundred powerful companies still control the majority of world trade. Banks use our savings to speculate with food prices, and international traders make profits out of food shortages.

We should not lose faith in a system that cannot possibly hope to do everything, but which, through the power of congregations in churches, has done so much to transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers, their families and communities all over the world. Here at Traidcraft we will continue to seek to "act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God".

Chief Executive
Gateshead NE11 0NE

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