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IN her otherwise excellent report on her visit to Kenya sponsored by Lyons Tea (‘Refreshing Change, October 11), your correspondent seriously misrepresents Fairtrade.
She says “Fairtrade prices for commodities like coffee are fixed. So, if there is a coffee shortage one year and the price soars, the Fairtrade farmers won’t get the knock-on benefit”.
This is completely wrong. The truth is that Fairtrade — unlike any other label — guarantees a fixed minimum price which farmers receive no matter how low the market price falls. Five years ago, at the height of the international coffee crisis, the Fairtrade minimum price for coffee was as high as twice the market price, and thousands of farmers were able to survive because of it.
But this minimum price is a floor, not a ceiling: it provides insurance to farmers in bad times. When the market price is higher, farmers always receive the higher price. And in addition to the price, Fairtrade products also receive a premium (10 US cents a pound for coffee), so the final Fairtrade price is always significantly higher than the market price.
While we welcome any system that gives a better deal to Third World producers and their families, the Fairtrade mark is the gold standard. That is why it is the only consumer label in Ireland supported by Amnesty International, Christian Aid, Comhlamh, Concern, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, Trócaire and the ICTU.
Irish Fair Trade Network
North Brunswick Street
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