Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Fairtrade: Banana Drama

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Fairtrade: Banana Drama

Article excerpt

Leaders of the Fairtrade movement are hoping that the International Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander, won't come empty-handed when he turns up at the launch of Fighting the Banana Wars and Other Fairtrade Battles, marking the beginning of Fairtrade Fortnight (25 February to 9 March). The book's author, Harriet Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation, hopes Alexander's speech--and cash--will signal that his department sees fair trade as a model for development.

In fact, the Fairtrade label is already a huge success and the most recognised ethical symbol in the UK. The Department for International Development (DfID) recently published its own survey showing high levels of support for the Fairtrade mark, with many people agreeing that it was a more effective way to tackle poverty than giving to charity.

Yet there is a solid case for more investment in the "brand". The most pressing need is for resources to increase the number of accreditation monitors. Processors and retailers complain that it takes too long to get approval for supplying Fairtrade products.

Alexander should have little difficulty convincing his boss about fair trade. Gordon Brown has made it clear that he is a fan. During last year's Fairtrade Fortnight he invited a Ghanaian cocoa producer to No 11 for a photocall, and in his book Britain's Everyday Heroes he praised Bruce Crowther, founder of the Fairtrade Towns movement, which now has more than 300 members. And fair trade is one of the fastest-growing retail sectors, with sales getting on for half a billion pounds a year. …

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