I'll eat my hat!
18 February 2019 IN: Ministers
The Bishop of Bolton, Mark Ashcroft, writes:
Sometimes I visit churches where I need to reach for the smelling salts! Shock horror, they are serving Nescafe after church! Christians are called to make a difference and stand with the poor. One of the easiest ways is for all our churches to buy only Fairtrade tea, coffee, sugar, chocolate and a host of other food items. It is such an easy way to make a difference. Give it a go for the quality is great, or I’ll eat my hat!
The British drink 165 million cups of tea every day which is an amazing amount of tea. Of that amount just 8% is Fairtrade certified. Some brands and some supermarkets have their own approach to trying to source their tea ethically and support the farmers and producers, but if it doesn’t say Fairtrade on the packet, it isn’t Fairtrade tea in the packet.
What is the difference? One of the tea factories that produces Fairtrade tea is just a mile or so from where we used to live in Kenya. We personally know many of the small scale farmers who set aside a portion of their farm to grow tea. It is the cash crop in the area. The Fairtrade premium, as it is called, goes direct to the farm workers who use it to purchase many of the things that we get for free, secondary school education, medicine for children, doctor’s fees, as well as improving their land and property by putting in piped water.
A while back on a visit to friends in Kenya, we were taken round an estate that grew the flowers that we see in our supermarkets, especially roses.The warm Kenyan sunshine makes ideal growing conditions for cut roses without the need for heating hot houses as in Europe. We were taken at the end of the tour to the packing area. To our surprise, we found the packaging for many well-known brands (including special offers) neatly piled up ready for the flowers. Each supermarket has a slightly different requirement of the length of the stem, so the packing area had different lines for each retailer. One line had the Fairtrade mark on its packages – in fact it was the Co-op. What struck us was that exactly the same quality flowers were being sent to each retailer but only one brand was Fairtrade.
Inevitably, we asked the supervisor what difference the Fairtrade mark meant. The quick reply was that the extra money comes direct to the workers, who in their case spent it on secondary school fees for their children.