Fair Trade

20 years ago I was accompanying my mother round various churches and community centres in the North East to listen to her talk about Fair Trade (and to help carry a variety of large and at times peculiar products). At the time no-one had really heard of the concept and getting hold of fairly traded products was almost impossible.

It’s fantastic to see that now it is possible to choose fairly traded alternatives to many products, I can get most products from the supermarket instead of having to hunt out somewhere selling Traidcraft products and events like Fair Trade fortnight are widely publicised in the media so public awareness of the issues is growing.

So tonight, in a church council meeting, I was amazed to hear one of our members state that,

“we’d have a lot fewer people staying for coffee if we started serving that“ … the that in question being fairly traded instant coffee … not that I’m a great fan of any instant coffee but it would be hard to make worse coffee than that which we get served regularly on Sundays! It seems so important to me that as a faith community we stand up for principles of social justice, and for issues like fair trade, and are visible in doing so and the fact that this issue was basically brushed under the carpet because we have far more important things (like flower festivals!) to discuss is pretty infuriating.

So I’m annoyed, with myself because I should have challenged that viewpoint but I was so taken aback to hear it after so many years of general acceptance (certainly from most within the churches I have been to) that I didn’t have a quick comeback at the ready … but also that the attitude still prevails. Something will have to be said. I’ve been far too well behaved of late anyway having found a church where I am accepted and where I feel at home so its probably time I started to ask a few questions.

Tim on the 01 Jan 2001:

Rachel,

I have to admit, early CafeDirect coffee wasn’t great, but that was seven or eight years ago. It has much improved since then.

We serve CafeDirect after the services at our church. No-one complains, probably because (a) it’s good coffee (we get the 5065 stuff) and (b) people are there for social interaction and community, not just coffee.

I think your friend needs to try some up-to-date FairTrade coffee, then see if she still thinks it will drive people away!

Rachel on the 01 Jan 2001:

I do remember their being some absolute horrors in terms of fairly traded coffee in the early days – there was some ghastly powdery stuff that we were inflicted with once – I think this was at the same time as hard, scratchy, grey recycled loo rolls!

Thankfully choosing fairly traded products now doesn’t mean compromising on taste or even on choice as there are just so many products available.

John on the 01 Jan 2001:

We have bought CafeDirect for years at least 8 and I for one have enjoyed it from the start. I stopped buying the Nestle products because of the baby food issues in Africa. Not into baby food myself it was the next best thing to be firm on. So switched, now of course they own Kit Cat but that not such a problem now they have gone plastic.

Stick with it, others to think about are steering clear of non cane sugar so you support the third world producers and not the decimation of the landscape of Norfolk.

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