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Vicar's column

It is currently Fairtrade Fortnight (22 February – 7 March), which is now established as an annual international event, originating in the UK. It is a campaign run by the Fairtrade Foundation to increase awareness of Fairtrade products and the people who grow our food, who live in some of the poorest countries in the world, and who can be exploited and poorly paid. Unfortunately, in the West, we live under an economic capitalist system which favours free trade rather than fair trade. Free trade disadvantages the poor and vulnerable. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
 
Fair trade is both a philosophy and practice of ensuring people, especially in developing countries, are paid fairly for the food they produce and labour they provide. It’s about sustainability and ensuring the poorest people in the world are paid what they deserve. Paying these higher prices to the farmers and labourers has many knock-on effects such as enabling better healthcare, sanitation, education, providing a higher standard of living, environmental benefits such as the purchase of more efficient methods of cooking and heating, and many, many more. These improvements in standard of living do not cost the earth but make a huge difference to people’s welfare.
 
The Fairtrade Foundation provides the following description:
“Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the market price), Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives.”
 
St John’s is a Fairtrade church (our certificate is pinned up on a noticeboard in church). We buy Fairtrade products eg. tea, coffee, toilet rolls from Tradecraft for use in church and run a Fairtrade stall after services – that is, in normal times when we are not battening down the hatches during a global pandemic. Although our church Fairtrade purchasing is compromised at present, we can all still buy Fairtrade goods individually and promote the concept of fair trade and ethical trading. It is about the choices we make on a daily basis. It may be time to review our shopping habits. Look for the Fairtrade logo.

Revd Dr Lisa Cornwell