FAIR TRADE FOR UK FARMERS

It's time for a "FairTradeUK" marque, writes Alistair McConnachie http://www.sovereignty.org.uk/features/footnmouth/ftradeuk.html

On September 9, 2002, the NFU launched a campaign to highlight how little farmers receive from the retail price of their food.

It showed that farmers are frequently getting less than a third of the retail value of a typical basket of goods.

For some fruit and vegetables, such as apples, carrots and onions, farmers are receiving less than a quarter of the retail price. These prices are falling short, in some cases, of the price of production.

The Curry Report recommended that farmers should work in co-operatives to strengthen their buying power. That's a very good idea. In some cases, this is happening. But as the NFU points out, there is an imbalance in the supply chain because the power lies in the consolidated strength of processors and retailers.

Recently, the concept called "Fair Trade" has been growing in appeal. Its aim is to promote economic security for producers in the developing world in their relationships with the developed world.

Fair Trade partnerships "seek to establish long-term relationships between low-income or disadvantaged artisans and farmers, and their Western trading partners, in order to guarantee a living wage for their work."

For example, crops such as bananas, cocoa, honey, sugar, tea and coffee are often subject to large fluctuations on the world commodities market. However, products that bear the "Fairtrade" mark - the UK's independent consumer guarantee of internationally agreed fair trade conditions - means that shoppers can be sure farmers are getting a price above the low world market rates for their produce, and thereby know that the farmers are benefiting from the economic security of long-term trading contracts.

According to www.fairtradefederation.com the seven principles of "Fair Trade" are: Fair Wages, Co-operative Workplaces, Consumer Education, Environmental Sustainability, Financial and Technical Support, Respect for Cultural Identity, and Public Accountability.

The essence of the concept, however, is the payment of a "fair price" which ensures economic sustainability for both the producers and retailers, working together within a long-term mutually beneficial relationship, enabling both to plan ahead in economic security.

It's a good idea. But some people have been noting, increasingly, that many British food producers are living below the official poverty line right here in Britain, and while they may not be in the life-threatening situation that some in the developing world find themselves, these people are nevertheless on very low incomes and are being forced off their land and out of work, while the land passes to bigger operations, whether these be large-scale land-owners or corporations.

That means it's time for Fair Trade for farmers in the UK.

A FAIR TRADE MARK FOR BRITISH FARMING

Let's have a Fair Trade Mark (or "Marque") on products here in Britain so consumers can be assured that the food producers in this country are getting a fair price for their product.

Presently "marques" such as the Red Tractor do not so assure the consumer. Even "Produce of the UK" on the label does not necessarily mean that it is UK farm produce, only that it has been packaged in the UK.

A Fair Trade Mark - a "FairTradeUK" marque - could be conferred by A Regulatory Body which could control the spread of income so that the farmer, the farmers' co-op, the processor, the supermarket and the consumer are all getting a fair deal.

In addition, let's have Legislation to Restrict the Market Power of the Major Food Retailers. For example: a) supermarket regulation on targets for stocking local and British food, b) tax penalties on the stocking of produce from overseas when the same produce is available at home, c) tax incentives to stock locally produced food.

And let's ensure that supermarkets are forced by law to draw up A Fair Trade Charter for Local Produce which will commit supermarkets to demonstrate their commitment to the local community.

It's time for Fair Trade UK.