Fairtrade in Lichfield

Did you know that Lichfield is a Fairtrade City? In March 2008, BBC Newsreader George Alagiah presented the Mayor of Lichfield with the Fairtrade City Certificate, to mark the fact that over one hundred organisations in the City have made a commitment to Fairtrade. A thinly attended September meeting of the Society heard about this and the work of the Fairtrade movement, from Michael Hawkes, our local Fairtrade representative.

So what exactly is the Fairtrade Movement and what does the Fairtrade Mark mean? The Fairtrade Foundation was established in the UK fifteen years ago (there are similar organisations throughout the world now) to seek to ensure that growers and producers in developing countries receive a fair and stable price for their products and provide good working conditions for their employees. This means that producers receive a payment about 10% above the market price for their produce, whilst the purchasing companies also guarantee to pay a social premium payment. This is used to build and run schools and health centres, provide clean water and sanitation and set up community credit unions; in fact to provide any social facility of which the local community is in need. Local monitoring ensures that Fairtrade commitments, such as not employing school age children, are honoured. But Michael agreed that the operation of the Fairtrade principle was not always straightforward. Requiring Third World producers to improve working conditions, for instance, could also lead to the possibility of staff being thrown out of work altogether.

In Lichfield, the one hundred organisations that have signed up to a Fairtrade commitment include many of our cafes and restaurants (look out for the Fairtrade signs in their windows) as well as a number of non food outlets. You will also find Fairtrade goods for sale in our local supermarkets. For example, Sainsburys and Waitrose sell only Fairtrade bananas, whilst Marks and Spencer's have started to sell clothes made from fairly traded cotton, as well as sourcing many of their food products from Fairtrade producers. Here in Lichfield a 'Fairtrade Steering Group' of trade and Council representatives has been established to build on the City's Fairtrade achievements, whilst the shopping public both locally and nationally are showing signs of recognising and understanding the need to support the Fairtrade movement. As our speaker said in closing, perhaps this initiative is one whose time has now come.

Roger Hockney
September 2009