Questions and Answers for Schools
Here are some questions that your friends and families might ask you about Fairtrade and how you might answer them:
Q - Why are Fairtrade products more expensive? Many people cannot afford them.
A - Really low prices may be tempting to shoppers but may also mean that the farmer who grew the crop is not being paid enough to support his family. Fairtrade will always be a little more expensive than the cheapest non-fairly traded versions of the same product because the growers are being paid a fair price and many people feel that that is only right.
For the most popular Fairtrade goods, however - coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas - the price difference between Fairtrade and non -Fairtrade is now really quite small - certainly pence rather than pounds. And bear in mind that Fairtrade foods like coffee and bananas make up only a small part of the average weekly shop and only add a small amount to the cost.
Most of us are being extra careful not to spend too much during the Credit Crunch and there will always be people on tight budgets for whom every penny counts. But most us us can still afford to spend a few extra pounds each month to help people in the Third World who are much poorer than us, even if it means giving up the odd treat like an extra bar of chocolate or pint of beer (for the adults).
Q - Farmers in our own Country need our help too? Why don't we help them instead of farmers in distant parts of the world?
A - The most popular Fairtrade products like bananas, chocolate and tea cannot be grown in our climate. So we are doing our own farmers no harm by buying them, so long as we support local farmers by buying foods like meat, milk, potoatoes, vegetables from them at the same time. The slogan to remember is: Buy local where you can and buy Fairtrade for those foods that cannot be grown in this country.
Q - Fairtrade is not very green as Fairtrade goods are imported long distances adding to our 'Carbon Footprint'.
A - The answer is the same. Buy Local where you can and use Fairtrade for the goods that we cannot be grown locally. And remember that bananas, coffee and tea - to name only a few - come to this country by boat, not aeroplane.
Q - Is Fairtrade food organic?
A - Not necessarily. The Fairtrade Mark guarantees that the farmer receives a fair price, not that he grows his crop organically. On the other hand, Fairtrade contracts lay down that the farmer must grow his crop in a way that is sympathetic to the environment, so you can be sure that Fairtrade food is free from unecessary harmful chemicals and growing it has not damaged the land.
And you can buy food that is both Fairtrade and organic, although like all organic produce it will be more expensive than non-organic Fairtrade.
Q - Can you buy other Fairtrade products apart from food and drink?
A - Yes. There are lots of other Fairtrade products available including - wine, flowers, cotton clothing, tea towels, shopping bags, footballs, precious metals like gold and silver, diamonds, even photograph albums.
And it is not only the well-known foods like bananas, coffee and chocolate that we can buy. In the shops you can now find Fairtrade rice, sugar, spices, fruit juice and even ice cream. And new ones are appearing all the time.
Q - Wouldn't it be better to give the money to charity?
A - Charity has an important part to play in helping poor and disadvantaged people, especially in disasters like earthquakes, floods or famine when help is needed quickly. Fairtrade works differently by making the world trade system less unfair and helping poor farmers to earn their own living by their own efforts. Ask yourself which you would prefer if you fell on hard times - a handout or the chance to earn your own living and support your family by your own hard work. I think most of us would choose to earn our own living on fair terms - and so do farmers in the Third World.
Q - How can we be sure that Fairtade money goes to the farmers and not to corrupt politician?
A - When we give to charity, we sometimes worry that our money will not end up with the people we want to help but in the pockets of corrupt politicians and officials. Fairtrade by-passes this by dealing directly with the growers or with groups of growers who get together in co-operatives. It doesn't always work perfectly. No system ever does. But the Fairtrade Foundation makes sure that most of the time the money ends up with the people it is meant for.
People will sometimes tell you that they have read something in the newspaper or watched a television programme about how Fairtrade does not work in this or that case. Ask them what they would do instead!