Thursday, 26 July 2012

Fair Trade Begins at Home

The Fair Trade movement in this country has made great strides, defying the so-called laws of capitalism. Consumers buying coffee, tea, rice, sugar, chocolate and many other imported products willingly pay more for them at supermarkets, Oxfam shops and church sales. Christians have taken a leading role in this, as in so many other benevolent schemes. The Co-op has done its best.
But why is it that we only care about Fair Trade when buying from abroad? Pictures of African workers picking cocoa beans move our hearts, but then we go straight out and buy the cheapest milk we can in a huge plastic flagon, indifferent to the fact that the dairy farmers are producing it at a loss.
We take it for granted that the EU with its Common Agricultural Policy will look after farmers. In fact, it spends a vast amount of money in creating a total mess. The reason why our trade with non-EU countries is often Unfair Trade is that the EU puts up barriers. When looking at the high prices in my local Fair Trade shop in Headington, set up by Christians, I often have to say that I cannot afford them, but I feel I have done my best for Fair Trade by voting UKIP. The EU's tariff barriers and non-tariff-barriers are probably doomed (like the entire EU) because there is a World Trade Organization and it is gradually pushing its powers and declaring all protectionist schemes unacceptable.
While many farmers are subsidized, others cannot even make a bare living and more and more run at a loss. This is barmy. We pay £50 million per day in EU membership contributions, then we begrudge paying farmers a few pennies more for a pint of milk, just to cover the production costs. Yes I said PINT. Not 568ml. Denounce me, fine me. Send me gaol!
For at least twenty years I have bought my milk from doorstep delivery companies. It costs more (and I am not in a high income bracket I assure you) but it means that the producers can get a fair price for it. Supermarkets regard cheap milk as a "loss-leader", luring you in to make you buy other things. But no cows can live on air and that loss-leader mentality means farmers will just pack up their business. What then? Will we be able to import milk from abroad? Will we have to buy UHT milk from Poland? Probably. If there are any cows in Poland. And if you don't mind paying for the transport.
At my old address I got milk deliveries from the Co-op. Now I get them from a company called Milk and More.
It costs 64p a pint but it is delivered to your door and I think it is well worth it, especially as you can get a long list of other things delivered at the same time. In this hot weather I ask them to leave the bottles inside a cardboard box to shade them from the sun. You can get organic milk or cream delivered too.
If people thought more about Fair Trade here at home, our British farmers might stand a decent chance.

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