Holyhead Fairtrade Tea And Spices Talk
by David Phillips
Fairtrade in Holyhead, Anglesey
Fairtrade fortnight 2009 came to Holyhead on Thursday when Bernard Ranaweera from the Small Organic Farmers Association (SOFA) in Sri Lanka, as guest of the Fairtrade Foundation, gave a presentation of the co-operative farmers’ work back home.
Bernard told the audience at St Mary's Church Hall, which included Anglesey MP Albert Owen, about the cornucopia of products produced by the 1,682 producer families who are members of SOFA in Sri Lanka.
They produce green tea, black tea, lemon tea, pepper, vanilla, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and lemongrass among others, quite a contrast to the predominantly livestock produce on the island.
A Fairtrade logo on products you see in shops is the independent guarantee that producers in developing countries such as Sri Lanka are receiving a fair price for their product.
Consumers can buy in the confidence that international standards have been laid down by the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO), an international certification body.
All Fairtrade products guarantee that producers will receive a cost covering price, which basically covers the production costs, as well as an additional premium which contributes to uplift living standards by investing in a range of social and welfare projects.
Bernard showed the audience how SOFA has made a very wise, long term investment in the local communities by using these funds to invest in women and children.
Members are encouraged to study and learn new skills, and local schools are built so that children don’t have to travel long distances to get an education.
The co-operative farmers of SOFA also encourage the growth of pre-school facilities so that they children have a good start in life. They provide leadership training which includes computer and internet skills.
SOFA has a women’s development programme to help prepare for the rain season, so they can gain skills in tailoring and get an interest free micro loan to start their own business. They have a successful self-employed support programme which helps families diversify their income sources.
All these long term investments in welfare and social capital are decided within a democratic organisation. Decisions are made at the village level and then a delegate is sent to the General Assembly, which has 252 elected members, and acts as a forum where ideas from the villages are presented, debated, decided upon and then implemented.
Bernard told the meeting how the fairtrade premiums have helped meet the priorities of agricultural development, welfare activities and social development.
For example, SOFA has been able
to distribute agricultural equipment to help some of the new farmers starting out. He also pointed out how they encourage the use of leaves from gardens for use as natural fertilizer, and encourage the growth of bee keeping units.
They also train farmers to control soil erosion and help them to boost soil fertility, which over time leads to higher quality products.
Welfare measures for members include temporary huts and chairs for the community as well as cooking utensils and books and stationery.
There are also some drinking water supply projects which aim to bring the water supply closer to the villages.
Since 2005 a total of 547,000 tea plants have been planted across all the farms within the co-operative. They will also distribute other plants within the association which can increase farmers’ incomes by up to ten times that gained from tea products alone.
Using spices such as ginger, turmeric, vanilla and lemongrass, this extra income can be generated within 9 months.
Catherine Hughesdon from Fairtrade Foundation, who accompanied Bernard Ranaweera to Anglesey, told the audience that international chocolate manufacturer Cadbury’s has just announced a highly significant policy change.
It will shortly source cocoa for a major portion of its milk chocolate bars from Fairtrade cocoa producers, which should result in a huge increase in business for this form of ethical trade.
Catherine said: "This will move Fairtade from a niche market into the mainstream of confectionery". UK consumers should see the Cadbury's chocolate with the Fairtrade logo in the shops from June 2009.
Local Fairtrade members on Anglesey such as Tony McNicholl and Reverend Steven Rowe are trying to raise the profile of these ethical products on the island, and Menai Bridge has been awarded Fairtrade town status (see below).
It is believed that local campaigners would like to see Holyhead achieve similar status.
Albert Owen MP thanked the organisers for their work in supporting producers in the developing world, saying that his office now uses Fairtrade products and that he would support further efforts to encourage people to do their bit to help.
Wales leads the way with its status as a Fairtrade Nation
and last year Anglesey school children learnt about fair trade from a South African orange producer. Menai Bridge
has started the process as the first island town with the new status.
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