30 Jul Suffolk Fairtrade Towns Meet Online
The Suffolk Association of Fairtrade Towns (SAFT) usually holds its annual conference in June or July. This year the physical conference, due to be held in Beccles, had to be cancelled so it was decided to hold an online meeting instead. Thirty people logged in via Zoom to hear presentations by Fairtrade Foundation Chief Executive Mike Gidney and Patrick Kaberia, a Fairtrade tea farmer from Kenya and Patron of SAFT. Mike, who lives near Woodbridge, said he was proud to be a resident of a county where there was so much activity in support of Fairtrade. He talked about the devastating effect of the Covid-19 epidemic on farmers and producers in the developing world – both directly and through the economic consequences. Although Fairtrade producers were badly affected they were generally in a better position to withstand the effects of the pandemic because of cash reserves built up from Fairtrade premium payments. Fairtrade communities mostly had access to running water too which is important for maintaining hygiene standards and better health care provision. Mike praised Fairtrade’s commercial partners, particularly the Co-op, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer who had provided extra financial help during the crisis.
Patrick said that tea farmers in Kenya had been badly affected by the dramatic fall in the price of tea and, if forced by the virus to stop work, would experience considerable hardship, as few had reserves to fall back on. Although all the tea in his co-operative in Michimikuru is produced to Fairtrade standards, a lot has to be sold on the open market, where it does not attract the Fairtrade premium. He urged everyone to buy Fairtrade tea whenever possible.
The conference was also updated about proposals by Nestle to move away from Fairtrade certification for some of its UK products and the concerns this raised. Richard Stainer is the chairman of SAFT. He said: “It was great to hear from Mike some of the good things that are going on in Fairtrade as well as current problems. As Patrick confirmed, Fairtrade really does make a difference, which is why there is so much concern about the Nestle proposals. I would urge everyone to familiarise themselves with the proposals and to make your views known. More details are available on our website (http://www.suffolkfairtrade.org.uk) as well as reports on Fairtrade activity across Suffolk in the last year.”
The Suffolk Association of Fairtrade Towns was formed in 2016 following a successful tour of Suffolk by Patrick Kaberia. All eight active Fairtrade towns in Suffolk are members and its main aim is to promote Fairtrade in Suffolk. This it does by providing support to its constituent members and sharing good practice.
Below is an edited video of the conference itself.