This ‘Fairtrade Fortnight’, Geraint Davies MP makes the case for why Fairtrade is needed now more than ever – a decade after Wales became the first Fairtrade Nation.
From the bananas, coffee and chocolate in your grocery basket to the trainers on your feet, many of the basics we rely on are produced by some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
10 years ago, Wales made history and became the first ever ‘Fairtrade Nation.’ Today, I am proud Swansea and South Wales are still flying the flag for fair trade so that the people who make our food do not go hungry.
Swansea is one of four out of five Welsh local authorities which has already achieved Fairtrade status. Our schools, universities, churches and community groups are leading the way. While Welsh schools only represent 6.7% of schools in the UK, they make up 20% of UK schools awarded Fairtrade status. We need more of the UK singing from Welsh hymnbook.
Bananas are the favourite fruit in UK grocery baskets, with six billion bought every year. They are grown by millions of small-scale farmers and plantation workers in tropical regions. But while the banana trade is a cornerstone of many developing countries’ economies, workers in non-Fairtrade plantations work in woefully poor conditions, often earning less than a dollar per day. The same is true for other essentials like coffee, tea, cocoa and cotton.
The Fairtrade Foundation currently works with 1.6 million farmers and workers across 74 developing countries, to ensure a fair living wage and a safety net by setting standards for the protection of health, workers’ rights and the environment. During ‘Fairtrade Fortnight’, which runs from 26 February until 11 March, groups like the Swansea Fairtrade Forum have been raising awareness about this vital movement by organising excellent local events in museums, church halls and charity shops.
We can each play a role by searching out and buying Fairtrade wherever possible. If we create the demand then supermarkets will change what they sell, and those producing our coffee and bananas will receive the protection they deserve.
We need to keep up the momentum because now is crunch-time. Fairtrade matters more than ever as, with Brexit, the UK government are about to go into the biggest renegotiation of trade terms in decades and it is important that the weakest are not sacrificed.
In these discussions, the interests of the most vulnerable must not be forgotten which is why I led a debate this week in Parliament to encourage the government to support fair trade, and say that we must protect the world’s poorest in our new trade deals.
New trade talks could either improve fair trade or lead to greater exploitation. Sadly, the UK’s weak negotiating position, having turned its back on the EU – the world’s biggest market, combined with a confused plan mean future trade deals could hit the most vulnerable hardest. We have to make sure that the world’s poorest people do not foot the bill for Brexit.
That is why I am moving amendments to the Trade Bill to ensure we protect human rights, the environment and communities in new trade deals, and that these deals are open to Parliamentary scrutiny and changes so that we can protect vulnerable producers.
Wales offers the rest of the UK a model for how communities can support fair trade around the world by making moral choices. The Fairtrade movement is built on the everyday choices of people like you and me. Ten years on, Wales must continue to lead the way.
Geraint Davies is the Labour and Cooperative MP for Swansea West.
Note to editors:
You can find the text of Geraint Davies’ Parliamentary speech on Fairtrade here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-03-07/debates/569F96DC-8082-4571-86D7-77A8BB06A1B8/FairlyTradedGoods?highlight=geraint%20davies%20fairtrade#contribution-E4C1BFDC-689D-41FA-843F-86400049B219