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Fair for all?

Listening to the coverage of the Oxford Farming Conference and the Oxford Real Farming Conference on ‘Farming Today’ a few weeks ago, I was struck by the constant refrain ‘fair for all’. Interestingly, the phrase was coming from people attending both conferences – which seem, fortunately, to be growing ever closer as the years go on.

What they were talking about was of course the importance of fairness at all stages of the supply chain of British Food – with an emphasis on fairness to the producer.

This is absolutely correct and as it should be. However, it did make me wonder how often we think about foods that are not grown in this country. It is not uncommon to hear in ‘real life’, the television, the radio etc people talking about fairness for British farmers. I would contend that it is far, far less common for people to be airing their views about the treatment of farmers from abroad. And yet much of our food is imported and, unless we are radically to change our diets, unavoidably so. Are you really happy to give up coffee, chocolate, tea, bananas…?!

So why the double standards? Why do we care so much about treating both farmers and the environment fairly in Britain but appear not to care at all what is happening elsewhere in the world? Are those people not equally important? And their farming practices potentially just as polluting to the planet?

Whilst fully supporting the idea that ‘Black Lives Matter’, I am confused that this appears only to apply to the lives of black people living in Britain. Is there not an inconsistency here? Do we really not care at all that people are being exploited and, and in some circumstances, treated effectively as slaves to produce our food? Why do we get so wound up about slavery in the past, but apparently care not at all about the treatment of present day workers that can come perilously close to slavery?

So, what I am asking for is consistency in standards. When you buy your potatoes, your milk, your eggs please do ask how these have been produced and try to ensure their production methods have treated both the people and the land fairly. But please also when you buy your coffee, your chocolate, your tea apply the same standards. Ask where this has come from. Look for logos showing accreditations. Find out what these mean and whether they are standards you are happy to have applied to the production of your food.

The next fortnight is designated Fairtrade Fortnight. This is a really good time to re-examine your buying habits and look into those accreditations. If a food bears the Fairtrade mark, what does this mean? Or the mark of the World Fairtrade Organisation? Or the Rainforest Alliance? … or so many more.

During the fortnight, we’ll be publishing a series of blogs written by members of the Shropshire Good Food Partnership. Do look out for them – we’re a varied bunch and I think you’ll find them interesting!

Jenny Hume

Chair – Global Dimension Group of the Shropshire Good Food Partnership

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