Posts Tagged ‘fairtrade’

Why buy coffee from a supermarket?

July 24, 2017

The furore created by the decision of Sainsbury’s to ditch FairTrade has raised two separate but interrelated questions. Why FairTrade, why buy coffee from a supermarket? Which leads to another, are there not superior alternatives?

Since the furore arose I have checked out the shelves of three UK supermarkets, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, and for comparison a little indie food shop Food for Thought.

Asda and Sainsbury’s were stacked with rubbish undrinkable brand coffee. Only a small section with what could remotely be called quality coffee.

In Waitrose, half the shelf space stocked with an attempt at quality, the other half rubbish brand coffee. If nothing else, exposing the lie Waitrose shoppers have good taste.

One of the criticisms of Sainsbury’s pulling out of FairTrade, was that in Waitrose will find FairTrade.

I did not, maybe I should have looked harder.

I did though find coffee from Union Hand-Roasted Coffee. Quality coffee, not FairTrade but direct trade. It was the only coffee with a roast date, old coffee, past its best.

FairTrade is little more than a brand to make buyers feel good, they have done their bit by picking up a bag of FairTrade coffee.

Coffee is traded on international commodity markets, Arabica in New York, Robusta in London. It has no intrinsic value, it is a commodity to speculate on. Unfortunately the price speculators will gamble on, impacts on the livelihoods of coffee growers, as everything is pegged to that price.

Coffee roasters in search of quality coffee, speciality coffee, will pay for quality, the higher the quality the higher the price. There is an incentive to produce higher quality as a higher price will be paid. FairTrade offers no incentive for quality, it locks farmers into poverty dependent upon handouts.

Coffee roasters want quality, not only this year but next year, the year after. They will enter into long-term agreements with farmers, partnerships, help them improve quality, adopt better agricultural practices that improve the soil fertility, safeguard forests.

Kew Gardens have been mapping forests in Ethiopia to establish the impact of climate change and what mitigation measures to take. To safeguard the forest, which is an important genetic resource for coffee as contains many wild coffee trees, the forest has to have value. The forest has value by Union paying a higher price for the coffee, not only paying a higher price, working with the farmers to help them improve the quality, establishing a cupping lab in order that the farmers themselves can assess the quality of their coffee.

Another example is the Los Nogales Project on an estate in El Salvador owned by the Salaverria family. One estate, three farms, different varieties, different plots, different processing of the beans. Taylor St Roasted and Horsham Coffee Roast are sourcing from Los Nogales Project.

Square Mile has a similar project, though not as ambitious. Short Stories, same varieties of beans, grown at different altitudes.

Indie coffee shops want quality coffee, as that is what their customers are demanding. This feeds back to higher prices for coffee.

If you want quality coffee, coffee that is freshly roasted, then buy the bags of coffee from the coffee shop, or failing that, little shops that specialise in quality, or direct from the roasters.

If you want to support growers, drink quality coffee, why are you buying from a supermarket?

Little shops like Grocer and GrainThe Deli at 80, Food for Thought, have quality coffee in stock, as does the slightly larger Infinity Foods.

Indie coffee shops that are brewing quality coffee, will often have coffee for sale, often they roast their own.

Failing that, there are many quality coffee roasters, Has BeanUnionSquare Mile, Taylor St Roasted, Horsham Coffee RoasterThe Roasting PartyKaruna Coffee, to name but a few.

The furore relating to Sainsbury’s pulling out of FairTrade should be turned around, why are people buying coffee from Sainsbury’s, when if you like coffee, want to support growers, you should be supporting the coffee trade by supporting the local indie coffee shop, the little shop stocking quality coffee or buying direct from the coffee roasters who engage in direct trade. In doing so you are not only supporting the coffee growers with higher prices, you are also supporting the local economy.

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Rushmoor Fairtrade meeting

June 18, 2015
Fairtrade meeting Rushmoor

Fairtrade meeting Rushmoor

A film on Fairtrade, a brief presentation by schoolchildren on their work on Fairtrade, and a quiz.

The film showed tea pickers in Malawi, the difference Fairtrade made to their lives, a fairer price for their tea, and a premium to be paid for community projects.

The film begged more questions than it gave answers. Why was the focus not on food sovereignty? They should be growing food, cash crops for extras. Cash crops simply brings villagers into the cash economy, where they are the guaranteed losers, as it is global commodity market not workers that determine price. One of the workers said, she could barely afford maize (which is their staple diet). Why therefore were they not growing maize?

Fairtrade is now somewhat dated. Yes, it was useful for raising awareness, and yes it can be a useful big stick with which to beat the likes of Starbucks and Costa, but beyond that no.

Many coffee roasters I speak to will not touch Fairtrade. They find it adds to their overheads, is very bureaucratic, and the organisation is a nightmare to deal with.

Quality coffee roasters are interested in quality. It is what their reputation rests upon. They prefer to deal with the growers direct, determine the conditions, set higher standards than the minimum set by Fairtrade.

The schoolchildren have only been working on Fairtrade for four months, and already are looking at sourcing a Fairtrade top as part of their school uniform.

I had chat with them. I said a must organic cotton, as cotton a very dirty, water and chemical intensive crop, the cotton unbleached.

Where are the tops produced? Suggested check out Labour Behind the Label. Also industry regulator Fair Wear Foundation who are on the ground checking out the factories.

I mentioned Russell Brand and how he had had his fingers burnt, he sourced what he thought was ethical t-shirts and sweatshirts from Belgium-based  Stanley & Stella, only to be the subject of an expose in the Daily Mail, shock horror, Russell Brand exploiting Bangladeshi workers in their sweatshops to expand his evil clothing empire.

Slow fashion. Unbleached natural organic cotton, kinder on the environment, softer on the skin, looks good too. If dyes are to be used, then natural dyes.

Cotton is a very dirty crop. It uses vast amounts of water, huge amounts of chemicals. More water, more chemicals in the processing of the cotton. The clothes are usually made in Third World sweatshops.

Industrial cotton is one of the most environmentally damaging crops that Man grows. Organic cotton is much pleasanter to wear. Organic cotton is biodegradable and can easily be recycled.

Industrial cotton requires an enormous amount of pesticide to keep it viable. Each pound of product requires a third of a pound of pesticides, which adds up to 25 percent of all pesticides used in the US for 13 million acres of cotton. Many cotton pesticides are EPA toxicity class I, like the viciously effective insecticides Methomyl and Methyl Parathion. A study by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation revealed that pesticide usage per acre increased during the 1991 to 1995 period by 4.21 pounds to 14.15 pounds per acre. The reality in the Third World, where pesticide regulation is more relaxed, is much worse.

Commercial white cotton is by far the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world and a major global crop. Fifty-five countries rely upon cotton for a significant percent of GDP. Cotton processing also takes another toxic toll, as the use of chlorine bleaching agents, formaldehydes and phenols is quite dangerous to all life. Fabric dyes utilizing arsenic, lead, cadmium, cobalt, zinc, and chromium are also very problematic. All processing stages produce large amounts of toxic wastewater. Azo dyes are cheap and common, about 2,000 exist. Many are water based and possess highly carcinogenic material absorbed by the skin and accumulated in the body. Inhalation, aquatic exposure or simple skin contact can be harmful. The EU has banned import and usage of the more toxic versions containing arylamines, though these products are used elsewhere. Other acid dyes produce waste streams with pH values above 11 and with possible carcinogen content.

Organic cotton is good for the planet, good for ourselves.

Natural cotton does not have to be any colour so long as it is off-white. Cotton grows in varying hues from purple to brown. Cross-breeding programmes have selected cotton of red, blue, green. This eliminates the need for dyes.

Slow fashion would set a standard. Clothes that look good, clothes that last. Style not fashion. Fashion is consumer addiction.

The look of the top not good. There are better designs. Check out Stanley & Stella for their design of tops. They will find far better approval by the schoolchildren as far more stylish and looks good.

If people ask questions where their clothes come from, we would see an improvement.

Labour Behind the Label are the people to talk to about sweatshops.

The schoolchildren and the film reminded me of schoolgirl Martha Payne who raised the money for a school kitchen in Malawi.

The quiz went on for ever, far too long.

Money raised for Nepal earthquake victims. It will go to DEC, but I would question this. Red Cross had a bad reputation in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and an even worse reputation in Haiti following an earthquake. All of which does not bode well for Nepal.

It would be far far better the money goes direct to a local group working in Nepal.

When Abari arrived in Dhawa, they found the school they had built was one of the few buildings that has survived.

Abari is a socially and environmentally committed research, design and construction firm that examines, encourages, and celebrates the vernacular architectural tradition of Nepal. As Nepal posses sophisticated traditional knowledge of natural materials like adobes, bamboos, stones and reed, Abari as a research and design firm tries to promulgate these materials into contemporary design practices.

Abari has put all its projects on hold whilst it focuses on disaster relief, but they also show where the future lies.

There is a risk the money going through Abari, but it is a risk worth taking. Money on salaries, will go to local people, which is money going into the local economy at grass roots where it is most needed.

I sat through the meeting thinking, what was the point, why was I wasting my time.

Great, if you are a fan of pub quzzes (I am not).

What did the meeting achieve apart from raising a little bit of money for Nepal (which may or may not be wisely spent)? Not a lot.

I was surprised the meeting was packed, as there was no publicity. Nothing on Rushmoor website, nothing on Triangle facebook page.

There are trade issues, and there is serious campaigning and lobbying needed.

TTIP is an affront to democracy, power transferred to global corporations, the ability in secret trade courts to quash environmental and labour laws if impinges on profit.

UK Aid is financing a carve up of Africa by Big Business.

85 people have as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population.

Films to show.

Black Gold, a look at the coffee trade through the eyes of an Ethiopian farmer.

The True Cost looks at the fashion industry.

Read No Logo and This Changes Everything both by Naomi KleinRevolution by Russell Brand and The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho.

Any future Fairtrade meetings need to be far better publicized, bring people in off the street, make the meetings interesting, discuss real issues. Every decision we make should be an ethical one, if we buy something, do we really need it, or are we as Pope Francis would say, adding to a pile of filth?

The Fairtrade meeting, tinkering at the edges, a distraction, people buying a few Fairtrade biscuits, going way with the false impression they have done their bit.

Sindyanna of Galilee – fair trade for a fair society

November 17, 2010

Sindyanna of Galilee is one of three fair trade groups that supplies olive oil for Peace Oil (USA not UK). The excellent videos gives you an idea of what this group has achieved in Israel Palestine. Sindyanna provides a framework for cooperation between the Arab and Jewish communities in Northern Israel, improving life for both peoples.

Sindyanna of Galilee is a fair trade organization active in the Arab-Palestinian community in Israel, marketing quality olive oil, olive oil soap, za’atar, woven palm baskets and more.

Established in 1996, Sindyanna of Galilee is a registered non-profit organization. Led by women striving for a social change, it operates in the Arab population in the Galilee region, northern Israel, and seeks to help growers and producers from the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Furthermore, Sindyanna combines commercial activity with work in the community, thereby enhancing Arab women’s empowerment while developing the olive industry. Our focal points stress values such as land preservation, environmental considerations, and commerce on the principle of fair trade.

Sindyanna symbolizes a unique cooperation between Arabs and Jews, striving to strengthen the economy of the Arab-Palestinian population, both in Israel and in the Occupied Territories. Sindyanna is not only a means of helping farmers and growers from the South, but also a way of showing that a solution to the Middle East conflict starts at opening real economic opportunities.

Also see

Zaytoun fairtrade Palestinian olive oil

Nablus: The Business of Occupation

Peace Oil

Peace Oil or taking the piss?

Peace Oil in Guildford

Zaytoun fairtrade Palestinian olive oil

October 27, 2010

Zaytoun fairtrade olive oil from Palestine.

Palestine is the home of the olive tree, with some of the oldest olive groves in the world, some dating as far back as 1500 to 2000 years. The olive trees produce fruit that supports over half the population and can be seen dominating the agricultural landscape.

The Mediterranean climate, rich fertile soil and use of organic traditional farming methods, makes Zaytoun’s Palestinian olive oil a world outstanding product.

Also see

PFTA (Palestinian Fair Trade Association)

Al Zaytouna awarded Fairtrade mark

Interfaith group for Morally Responsible Investment with respect to Israel/Palestine

Picking olives under occupation

Peace Oil

Peace Oil or taking the piss?

Nablus: The Business of Occupation

Sindyanna of Galilee – fair trade for a fair society

The Story of Stuff

October 9, 2010

In the natural world there is no such thing as waste either in time or space. The output of one process is the input to another.

All loops should be closed. We should either use natural materials that can be reused, recycled or composted; or our manmade materials should parallel the natural world and form closed loops. We should have zero waste. All toxic materials should be eliminated.

All trade should be fairtrade.

Also see

The Story of Cosmetics

Lush Cosmetics – Our Environmental Policy

whydark* from chocolate organiko in Madrid

September 14, 2010
whydark*

whydark*

‘In 2006 we made our dream a reality, we set up a small chocolate atelier in Madrid, Spain, where we could make and design our own chocolate, all from 100% Organic Trinitario Cocoa Beans from the Dominican Republic and Trinidad Island.’ — chocolate organiko

“If I had made a prediction before conducting the tests, I would have picked green tea as having the most antioxidant activity. When we compared one serving of each beverage, the cocoa turned out to be the highest in antioxidant activity, and that was surprising to me.” — Chang Lee

I was never a fan of dark chocolate, until I tried Green and Black. I had a South African friend Estie and she complained to me English chocolate was rubbish. I gave her Green and Black and she was happy.

Green and Black was founded to produce quality chocolate. It was made outside the UK as they felt no one was capable in the UK of producing quality chocolate. It was therefore a pity they sold out to Cadbury. Cadbury have in turn now sold out to Kraft.

whydark* from chocolate organiko puts Green and Black in the shade. It is divine. But it is pricey.

I first came across whydark* in Infinity Foods, then Taj the grocer on trips to Brighton. I bought it for my lovely friend Sian. I tried a bit, then a bit more, and before I knew it, it had all gone.

I have suggested Grocer and Grain stock it and will also recommend it to The Deli.

Spain is not a country that springs to mind when I think of chocolate, and yet that is where this quality chocolate originates from.

Chocolate organiko was founded to produce quality chocolate. The cocoa used comes from Organic Trinitario Cocoa Beans from the Dominican Republic and Trinidad Island.

The whydark* I have tried was 65% organic. There is also a 75%.

Dark chocolate is seen by many as a super food. This is due to the presence of antioxidants. Cocoa contains polyphenols, which are also found in grapes, berries and wine – as well as catechins and epicatechins – found in green tea.

Chang Lee, chairman of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Cornell University, found that cocoa has nearly twice as many antioxidants as red wine, and up to three times as many as green tea.

Chocolate is also a good source of iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Dark, more cocoa rich, chocolate contains more iron than white chocolate.

A BBC study found eating chocolate was more stimulating than kissing. I guess it would depend on who you were kissing and what you do with a chocolate bar!

Does this mean we can eat loads of chocolate. No. Chocolate is fattening. A recent study I heard on a news or science programme, suggested a small part of a bar of dark chocolate each day ie one small square a day.

But I am always wary of such studies. Who funds them?

Super foods is easy: eat fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, dried fruit and oily fish (and a teeny-weeny bit of organic dark chocolate is ok too).

Luxury organic fairtrade dark chocolate from Tradecraft is almost, but not quite, as good as whydark*. It does though have the advantage of being 2/3 the price and it is fair trade. Which begs the question, why is not whydark* fairtrade? [see Traidcraft launches indulgent chocolate range]

Chocolate beans are grown in a narrow band 10 degrees either side of the equator.

Quality chocolate tends to be single-sourced, not a blend, ie comes from a region, area or even single grower. Such chocolate can be likened to wine, where the growing method, climate, soil will all influence the taste.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range of dark chocolates are single-sourced. At the bottom end of the range we have Sainsbury’s Basics, less than a tenth of the price of whydark*, looking at the list of ingredients, I do not even wish to go there!

Taste the Difference Santo Domingo organic dark chocolate from Sainsbury’s: ‘Bitter sweet with hints of red wine and berry flavours.’ Yeah, right, and pigs fly! Tastes like dark chocolate, and nothing else. Better than mass produced chocolate but not as good as Traidcraft or Green and Black and certainly not in the same league as whydark* from chocolate organiko.

Very Dark Chocolate, 73% cocoa from Montezuma’s is not bad, but not in the same league as whydark*, and certainly cannot justify the high price.

Also see

Introducing the latest superfood … chocolate

Chocolate? Now that is a tasty new treatment

Cocoa ‘vitamin’ health benefits could outshine penicillin

Chocolate eaters may have healthier hearts: study

SuperFoods

Traidcraft’s response to BBC Panorama Programme, Chocolate: the Bitter Truth, Wednesday 24 March

Traidcraft launches indulgent chocolate range

Top 10 ethical British chocolates

A cross of olive wood

February 18, 2010
A cross of olive wood

A cross of olive wood

“A holding cross is designed not so much to look right as to feel right. The cross is deliberately uneven, in order to fit between your fingers more comfortably than a ‘correctly shaped’ cross would do. Because a holding cross is not decorated or ornamental, it is a harsh reminder of the wood of the cross of Jesus.” — Angela Ashwin

An unusual shaped cross, made of highly polished olive wood. It feels smooth to the touch, fits snugly in the hand.

The cross is made from wood from an olive tree, wood that has been dried for five years.

The cross is carved in the Holy Land, at a workshop in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. Packed for shipment in a house in the Old City of Jerusalem. Imported into the UK by Marie Wilkinson.

Because they are hand-carved no two crosses are alike. Each cross is unique.

Anything that helps Palestinians survive the brutality of Israeli occupation is to be welcome. Anyone who doubts that brutality should read ‘The Last Taboo’ in Freedom Next Time by John Pilger or Fateful Triangle by Noam Chomsky.

A few years ago I was with friends at the Beyond TV International Film Festival in Swansea. They had helped bring in the olive harvest in occupied Palestine. When not destroying the crop, Israelis make it nigh impossible to harvest. The olive oil they brought back was delicious. Whilst not carrying a Fair Trade logo it was ethically produced. Please encourage your local deli and other outlets to stock Palestinian Olive Oil as every little helps.

I came across this holding cross, as these types of cross are known, in Triangle, a Christian bookshop cum teashop.

Also see

The Cross

Holding the Cross