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Recharging our Fair Trade batteries

Well we are definitely living in interesting political times at the moment! However, I’m sure people from all sides of the political debate would agree that retail has been a tough place to be recently. With uncertainties over Brexit and election results, consumers have not been feeling very flash with their cash, and our Fair Trade producers have also been affected by the fall in the value of the pound. But sometimes when you are busy worrying about the pennies, it can be easy to forget why you are doing what you are doing in the first place.

With that in mind, at the end of May we set off on a Fair and Fabulous outing to York to attend the British Association of Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers AGM. This is the first time it has been held since we became members, so although it was a long old haul to get there, we packed our bags full of Fairtrade wine and chocolate and hit the road.

Jill’s trusty new van – on its first proper test run – made it there in good time. Enough time for us to grab a pint or two in the most haunted pub in York and a bite to eat. But we were very well behaved, knowing we had a full two days ahead of us.

So what was it like at the conference? Well the hall was lined with stalls from suppliers, some well known to us and some completely new. And there were great talks throughout the whole of the two days. Amongst the most inspirational were the 10 minute ‘suppliers stories’. There are many images that will stay with me – from the earthquake in Equador that destroyed the home of Darwin who makes ‘blushing dadgers’ (a slight translation problem with badgers) for Just Trade to the vibrant mobility scooters funded by Neema Crafts in Tanzania that could only be an African design. These are the real people and projects that we can support by purchasing beautiful products for our shop.

In the evening we sneaked out of the conference pub quiz because it wasn’t in a pub (we do have some standards!) and managed a whistlestop tour of the sights of York – with maybe another pint or two thrown in for good measure…

And the next day, after another lovely walk down the river to the conference centre, it was well worth missing the glorious sunshine for a talk by Bruce Crowther, who established the first ever Fairtrade Town in Garstang. His inspirational talk included a quote made by abolitionists in 1790:

 “It is beyond belief that people should be made to suffer to supply us with luxuries such as tea, coffee and chocolate.”

In one way it is depressing that we should still be needing to make the same point so many years later. But it is also inspiring that these early abolitionists, working in small groups within churches and communities, did start a movement that led to the end of slavery, at least in that particular form. His point that Fairtrade was not the end of the road, but rather a step on the way to Global Trade Justice and the eradication of poverty was a call to arms for us all.

And now we are back in our lovely corner of West Wales, re-energised and more determined than ever to carry on flying the flag for Fairtrade (however silly we have to make ourselves look to do it) and to keep supporting all of our wonderful producers. Because although the bottom line always matters, and we cannot continue to do the things we want without making money, it is not the only important thing about the journey that we are all making together!