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Monday, May 03, 2010

is someone trying to say something here (or 'fair trade. it's important')

Everywhere I went today I tripped over fair trade. I thought someone was trying to tell me something (and maybe they were), but it turns out it's fair trade fortnight and the airwaves are consequently chock full of information.

The first item I stumbled across was on Bush Telegraph. Michael Cathcart interviewed the executive director of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand and the chairman of the Highlands Organic Agricultural Co-operative which represents growers in the Papua New Guinea Highlands. I was so encouraged to hear what fairtrade dollars are doing for this community in PNG. Their government struggles to provide funding for schools, hospitals and roads, so the community has used the extra money they receive for their coffee to pay for classrooms, mattresses and road repairs. I am committed to fair trade on principle, but to hear the benefits this has was tremendous.

Enter Coles, and sure enough, the fair trade chocolate (Cocolo) was still missing from the top shelf, where you normally can't reach it (leave alone see it) without growing Inspector Gadget arms. I had noticed it was gone last week but thought it might be a mistake. No. The fair trade chocolate was gone. Mostly I buy our chocolate from the local Oxfam store (seriously, this is some of the nicest fair trade chocolate I've tasted), but I try to support the supermarket in their fair trade efforts, so often pick up a block or two to scoff down nibble on on the way home. I decided to let Coles know I noticed this change, particularly as they had filled the gap with Lindt - the biggest, baddest, most heartless chocolate company of the lot. Talk about an insult! So I filled out a 'comment' form and handed it to the nearest staff member. She took one look and told me I should send it straight to head office, as local stores have very little control over what lines they carry. So Coles, there is a letter on the way to you requesting an explanation for why Cocolo fair trade chocolate is no longer available in your Charles Street store.

Oooh, I thought. What a coincidence - first the radio, now Coles. I'm having a fair trade day! Call me slow, but I still hadn't clicked into the whole fair trade fortnight thing. Until I came home this evening to a message from friends and realised it was all more than a string of coincidences:

'Thought you might be interested in Four Corners. Their report tonight is on fair trade chocolate.'

Sadly we missed the report, but (gotta love the internet) I'll catch up on it tomorrow. My friends said it was a little disappointing to hear some fair trade funds in Africa are misappropriated, but this pales in comparison to the exploitation of children as slaves in the production of chocolate.

Fair trade has been a cause dear to my heart for a long time. I'm delighted it is receiving so much airplay this fortnight, but more than that, I hope the awareness raising will make a difference in the long run for those people who suffer greatly for our little luxury.

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