It is currently Fair Trade Fortnight, from 24th February to 9th March, aimed at encouraging people to think about their shopping choices and the consequences of artificially cheap food prices. This year the campaign is focussing on the banana trade where large scale producers paying low wages are driving smaller farmers out of business. They point out that the price of bananas has halved in real terms over the last ten years, pressure from large supermarkets for cheaper supplies means poverty level wages for the workers on the plantations. It is an issue that affects many 'cash crops'; where land in developing countries is transferred from producing food for locals to growing crops to be sold to western markets, making people very dependent on the vagaries of the market and putting the power and control of prices in the hands of the buyers. Buying goods that are fair trade guarantees that the producers are paid a fair living wage for their products. The structures set up by fair trade organisations and cooperatives give the growers a guaranteed market and more long term security for their livelihoods. Many supermarkets do stock these products nowadays, from fresh food like bananas, to tea and coffee, chocolate and sugar, and even cotton clothing. Alternatively you can shop online at the Traidcraft website, for foods, housewares, clothing and jewellery. People Tree do a lovely range of clothing, for people concerned that all fair trade stuff is for hippies. Fair Corp sells fairtrade trainers, clothing and underwear. For chocolate you can't beat Green and Black's; Maya Gold has always been my favourite, it's so dark you can't eat much so it lasts ages, though I was a little disappointed with the new lemon, which was not lemony enough for me. The Traidcraft website has a pretty comprehensive list of places that sell a variety of fair trade products.
The Guardian yesterday ran this article that adds emphasis to the issue by highlighting the very real consequences of poverty wages in developing countries. I buy my tea by the case every couple of months, it costs me £16 with postage and a small 'round up' donation, and I just worked out that it comes to about 18p for my (average) four/five cups per day, it's a small price to pay.