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Ireland can play its part in aiding developing countries by supporting the Fairtrade initiative, says Minister of State for Trade and Development, JOE COSTELLO TD


Peter Gaynor (centre) with Samatha Valluri, Chetna Organic, India and Sigfredo Benitez, Los Pinos Co-operative, El Salvador (Credit:


Minister of State Joe Costello TD

The Fairtrade movement in Ireland had another successful year in 2011 and we must take the right steps to build on this in 2012, says PETER GAYNOR

REMARKABLY, once again the sales of Fairtrade prod- ucts in Ireland grew by an estimated 16pc in 2011, up fromfrom¤138min 2010 to ¤159min 2011. Sales ofFairtradebananas

President Michael D Higgins greets Fairtrade guests at Áras an Uachtaráin this week

increased by 60pc and Fair- trade chocolate sales grewby a similar amount. This is very good news in


FRICAis open for business: this is the clearmessage emerging from leaders, business- es and communi-

ties across the continent. Rich in economic potential,

in mineral wealth and in young people, it is a dynamic and vibrant continent.Growth rates in many countries reached 7pc over the past five years. According to the IMF, economic growth across the continent is expected to sur- pass 5pc a year to 2015. While it is important to

recognise that much of this growth is from a low base – and indeed that growth is unevenly spread – it is clear that Africa is emerging as the continent of the future. Like Ireland, African coun-

tries today identify job cre- ation,

foreign direct

investment, private sector development and trade as the drivers of sustainable develop- ment. Last year, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

‘Fairtrade is one way in which communities here can support farmers and producers in developing countries who are working to build a better future’

launched a strategy for Ire- land’s continuing engagement with Africa entitled ‘Ireland and Africa: Our partnership with a changing continent’. We recognise that many

African countries continue to face major challenges of poverty and under-develop- ment andwe remain commit- ted to supporting the most vulnerable communities through our aid programme, Irish Aid. However, the strategy also

acknowledges the significant economic and social progress achieved and sets out howwe will engage with Africa in a more coherent fashion – eco- nomically, politically and through our development aid programme. Aid can and does make a

difference. Thatmuch is clear. But we also know that aid alone is not the answer to under-development. Fairtrade is one way in

which communities here can support farmers and produc- ers in developing countries who are working to build a better future for their families. Farmers in developing

countries need access to prof- itablemarkets. Businesses in developed countries, such as Ireland, require a consistent

and guaranteed supply of high quality products. Fairtrade can bridge this gap by build- ing a productive partnership between farmers in develop- ing countries and our busi- nesses communities. The Irish Government has

long been a strong supporter of Fairtrade. Since 2002, Irish Aid has provided over¤15mto the Irish Fairtrade Network to support programmes to reduce poverty among small- holder agricultural producers and increase their engage- ment in the Fairtrade system. Small scale farmers and

producers in Uganda, Tanza- nia, Kenya and Ethiopia, and in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua andHonduras con- tinue to benefit fromthis sup- port. The Fairtrademovement is

not just an example of the exceptional contribution that volunteers and businesses in Ireland make to society, but also howthis contribution can have a lasting impact for those living in poverty and hunger around the world.

the current economic envi- ronment.Buthiddeninthose figures there are also some casualties of the economic downturn: some Fairtrade colleges have stopped sup- plyingFairtrade-certifiedcof- fee. This is a huge disappoint-

ment and onewhichwe and our supporters will need to work to rectify in 2012. But onapositivenote, cos-

metics company Oriflame is now launching a range of Fairtrade-certifiedcosmetics. Although the launch is glob- al, it’sgoodtoknowthat these innovative products were developedinOriflames’sR&D department inBray,CoWick- low.They are available inIre- land fromtoday, 3March. We also expect to make

progress on the availability and sales of products made with Fairtrade-certified cot- ton over the next fewyears. Last year the Fairtrade

movement internationally agreedtosignificant changes in howit is governed so that thenetworksof small farmers andworkers in Africa, Latin America and Asia now have 50pc of the representation

within the Fairtrade system. It is both proper and inspir- ingthat their voices aregoing tobeat theheartof theorgan- isation’s decisions in the future. Closer tohome two things

happenedin2012whichhad a telling symmetry. After decades as themarket leader in supplying Fairtrade prod- ucts in Ireland, Oxfam Ire- land closed its dedicated Fairtrade shops. Oxfam Ireland and other

overseas NGOs have pio- neered and promoted the availability of Fairtrade in mainstreamshops.Their suc- cess indoing thismeans that there is now less need for ‘alternative’Fairtradeoutlets. In parallel with this, Mars announced that their iconic Maltesersbrandis converting to Fairtrade in 2012. It does- n’t get anymoremainstream than that. ‘Take a Step for Fairtrade’

is the theme of this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight. Sigfre- do Benitez, manager of the Los Pinos Co-operative in El Salvador, and Samatha Val- luri fromtheForumfor Inte- grated Development, which promotes Chetna Organic Farmers’Association(COFA) in India,will visit during the fortnight this year. We’ve takenplentyof steps

forFairtrade over the years – and we need to be as full of energy and resolve now as ever before to take further steps for Fairtrade in 2012 and beyond.

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