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Harper Forum report - Meriel Chippindale of Fairtrade

Posted 7 March 2011

By Harper Forum reporter, Charlotte Harley.

As part of Fairtrade fortnight, the Harper Forum teamed up with the University College’s Catering Dept. to help push its Fairtrade status amongst students, and welcomed speaker, Meriel Chippindale.

As a farmer, have you ever been paid less than your input costs? Undervalued in what you do? Ever felt like just quitting?  Well, Fairtrade is here to help farmers across developing countries in order to get the fair deal to people pushed to the edge.

For these people the above questions are a day to day reality.

Ms Chippindale, discussed three concepts during the talk:

* Health: Struggling families have no money to feed themselves, no way to protect themselves and work with hazardous materials every day.

For instance, in Costa, farmers worked with chemicals banned in the US but exported from there for the farmers to use. These chemicals were particularly hazardous especially to sterility and vision, so much so that 3500 babies were born severely deformed from the effects of it.

* Power: Supermarket buying power has overcome world markets and now controls the sale price, not the producer. They are said to be driving down prices and causing the loss of many farming families.

The cycle of sale price reductions is a repetitive destructive setup that we all too well can relate to. However, developing countries have no alternative as there are limited other buyers and they cannot afford to lose the business.

* Hope: Fairtrade offer an answer to the demeaning employment people have found themselves in. Improvements to health and safety conditions, a guaranteed minimum price and a long term contract allowing stability for families are huge boosts.

The Fairtrade premium is also a successful way in which communities can choose how to develop and encourage schooling, farming, clean water facilities and transport links.

Ms Chippindale added that today, farmers in this country and across the globe realise the struggle of supermarket price control so why not unite against it?

By supporting Fairtrade, it’s supporting the concepts wanted from the end consumer. Support local farmers and producers, but as pineapples do not grow in the UK, why not buy them Fairtrade?

That way it’s defending the principle of the fair prices demanded for goods that the UK cannot produce, and promote Fairtrade which should be the Benchmark.

Next week Peter Kendall, President of the NFU, visits the Harper Forum. 

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