fair trade at rheged

Rory has pledged to do all he can to help Cumbria focus on fair trade, both locally and abroad, at a conference held on Friday at Rheged. The event – Cumbria Local and Fair – was organised by Keswick Fairtrade enthusiasts Joe Human and Jo Alberti and chaired by Julia Aglionby of Armathwaite, and drew participants from all over Cumbria and the UK. The day included presentations on Cumbrian farming and the Fairtrade organisation. Cumbria already has a Fairtrade foundation on which to build, with more than 20 towns and 3 schools in the county already with Fairtrade status.

Rory chaired a session involving local dairy farmer Robert Craig and St Lucian banana farmer Stephen Best discussing how to build value into the food-chain before leading a stimulating discussion on the similarities between small-scale Cumbrian farmers and their Caribbean counterparts. He then pledged to sponsor an event in Parliament for the Fairtrade foundation on the Grocery Code Adjudicator Bill, highlighting the case for local farmers and producers.

Rory said: “Remarkably, many similarities exist between Cumbria and the Windward Islands. We are both characterised by smaller farming operations, and farmers who are becoming increasingly marginalised as they are squeezed harder by an inflexible supply chain that is effectively ruled by vast retailers. Corporate business is putting our dairy, poultry and livestock farmers under increasing pressure to be competitive in a market that is unforgiving. As in St Lucia – where the Fairtrade model has essentially rescued an entire industry – we need to adapt in order to recognise the immense value that our farmers bring to the food chain. Our uplands farms are the feeder farms for the lowlands; our dairy farmers operate in the largest milk-field in Britain. We have enormous potential to feed our country, whilst at the same time investing in our farms and thus our rural communities, making them sustainable for generations to come. Today’s conference has been a brilliant way of showing how fair business models can work both at home and abroad, and this is an excellent first step in making Cumbria synonymous with a fairer way of producing and consuming.”

Following presentations and lunch delegates split into workshop groups to discuss key aims and actions. Setting up a dedicated supply chain for Cumbrian-produced milk and establishing procurement support groups so farmers can more easily supply large organisations were among the suggestions. Educating people about the importance of buying Fairtrade and establishing a Cumbrian trademark were also identified aims. The NFU and Cumbria Farmer Network have both committed to supporting the creation of local marketing groups.

Organiser Joe Human said: “Is there something we can learn from the international movement and grow something similar in Cumbria? Rather than just committed families and individuals supporting local and Fairtrade produce, we could have a dedicated supply chain so there is a link between retailers and producer groups.”

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