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Fairtrade Yorkshire

Yorkshire Fairtrade Success

Saturday 19th January 2013

The Archbishop today writes in the Yorkshire Post about Yorkshire becoming the first Fairtrade Region in the UK. His article follows...

Last night, I attended an event in York launching Yorkshire as the country’s first Fairtrade Region. Celebrations also took place in Ilkley and Leeds, as our great county joined in standing up for fairness at the checkout.


We need to recognise that hardworking farmers around the world deserve to be fairly paid. Whether those farmers live in Malton or Malawi, it is important that those putting the food on our tables are paid properly for their endeavours and are able to feed and support their own families.


The launch is the culmination of three years’ work by campaigners and traders across Yorkshire. Over that period there has been enormous support behind the concept of Fairtrade – churches have been involved in this journey since the very beginning, so I am delighted to be here as we reach this important milestone.


Every individual, no matter where they live in the world, is of equal worth in the eyes of God. Everyone matters.


We should all be very proud today that we can stand up and say Yorkshire is a beacon, lighting the way forward for the rest of our nation, on issues of fair pay.


When we see unfairness and suffering we have a duty to step in and intervene with love, generosity and kindness. Not because it is the right thing to do, but because we have a moral obligation to do so. Fairtrade is not simply about generosity, it is about justice.


Of course, when it comes to issues of fairness, Yorkshire has often led the way. We should be very proud of our past and hopeful for our future.


In York, for instance, we have consistently led by example on the issue of tackling inequality – local employers, such as the Rowntree family understood that a happy, healthy, well-educated and prosperous workforce helped deliver a happier, healthier, better educated society. The concept of Fairtrade is an extension of that vision and ethos for the wider world.


Last November, I had the honour of launching the Living Wage for the UK with Julia Unwin from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The eyes of the nation focussed on York that day as we talked about how we needed to help poor people working hard to make a living in this country. I hope that again people are watching as we make a commitment to help those working to battle poverty overseas.


The fact that poverty pay is allowed to exist on our planet in the 21st Century is a disgrace. We will not make this country stronger by impoverishing others. When we ask who is our neighbour, we should not just look over our garden fence but to everyone who lives in our global village. They may be out of sight, but they should not be out of mind.


Having witnessed the results of Fairtrade for myself when I visited the Ivory Coast in 2009, I know that the simple choices we make in the supermarkets have a massive effect on improving the lives of those that live overseas.


The success of Fairtrade products has been a phenomenon, defying the downturn and growing to sales worth £1.32bn across the UK in 2011. By providing a guaranteed minimum price for products, Fairtrade provides dignity and security to producers and helps communities lift themselves out of poverty all over the developing world. Over 4,500 products are now bear the Fairtrade Mark, which is certified by an international network of foundations. But the work doesn’t stop there.


I have said repeatedly that workers should get a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, regardless of where they live in the world. That is why I said last year that I would love to see a Fairtrade mark for British goods too.


We need to know when we buy products that the farmer who produced them is not being exploited. We need to be confident that we are part of a mutually beneficial process where everyone has the opportunity to blossom.


We should be concerned about food security, and fairer prices should be the bench mark of our concern. Times are tough, but that should not be an excuse for hardening our hearts to others and ripping them off in a one-sided transaction.


How can we expect farmers to go on producing quality goods when we are paying them below the going rate for their labours? How can we expect those families and communities to flourish?


We may feel that a question as simple as what brand of tea bag or coffee should we buy can’t make that much of a difference to global poverty, but it really does.


Remember one seed can start a garden. One drop of water can turn a water-wheel. Never give up trying to transform the lives of others through small actions of love and hope.

As a region we have committed to stand together and call for fairness. If we all now choose to spend our pennies on fairly traded goods when we get to the tills, I am confident we will see a transformation not only in the lives of producers but in the attitudes of those running our supermarkets and shops.


Let us demand Fairtrade on the shelves. Refuse to buy products that don’t have the Fairtrade logo on the packaging, because in a market economy, money talks – and the customer is always right!


Come on Yorkshire, let’s commit to making global poverty a thing of the past!

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