June 2011

Why Buy Traidcraft ?

Leslie Brown

Fairtrade in the UK is worth a staggering £1 billion a year - the largest Fairtrade market in the world. It's a fantastic achievement and one for which we thank God and for which churches can take a great deal of the credit.
But the wider availability of fair trade products in supermarkets has given some people the impression that somehow, the job is done and that we don't need to bother anymore.
They're wrong - but we know that mistaken belief can make life difficult for supporters of Traidcraft, so here are a few answers to some of the questions you might get asked:
Why is it better to buy from a Traidcraft stall/outlet than a supermarket?
Supermarkets are great at what they do - selling large volumes of products at very competitive prices but they can only work with Fairtrade certified food producers who can supply them in the volumes they need.
So they offer no opportunity to commodity producers who aren't yet at that level - but would like to be - or to the millions struggling to support themselves and their families making crafts, textiles, jewellery, ceramics, or paper and card products for which no internationally agreed Fairtrade standard yet exists.
Traidcraft can - and does! A large part of our effort is directed towards helping some of the poorest and most marginalized producers gain their share of the growing global fair trade market. Sales from Traidcraft stalls/outlets play a vital role in making that work possible.
How can supermarkets sell some Fairtrade products more cheaply than Traidcraft?
Between them, the four largest supermarkets (Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons) have around 75% of the UK grocery market. Tesco alone has a weekly turnover of around £1 billion - as much as the whole Fairtrade market in the UK for a year! Even the smaller supermarket chains are still very large compared to Traidcraft.
Their size means they can achieve economies of scale and efficiencies that smaller trading operations, like ours, just can't hope to match. They can afford to offer products at lower prices because their operating costs are, proportionately, much lower.
So you're asking supporters in the church to pay more?
In the case of a few products - yes. If you believe what we are doing is right, if you want to see more families given the opportunity to work their way out of poverty, more communities enjoy the sort of amenities we take for granted - clean water, a school, a clinic - then choosing, consciously, to buy from your Traidcraft outlet rather than the supermarket is the way to help.
Why does Traidcraft sell its products to the supermarkets?
Because Traidcraft was set up to change the way the world trades - and getting the mainstream to adopt fair trade is part of our mission.
Although the fair trade market has grown impressively in recent years, it is still only a tiny fraction of trade in the UK, let alone the world. If we can move the 'big boys' even a little way towards fairer trade, that will open up huge opportunities for many more producers.
And supermarkets offer Traidcraft access to a whole group of customers who might otherwise never come across fair trade products.
Why is the support of each individual so important to Traidcraft?
Because Traidcraft was created as a Christian response to poverty and the support of the churches has been critical to its growth and achievements - and will always be so.
Because consumption involves choice and the choices we make when we spend our money send powerful signals to government and business.
Because Christian living can, sometimes, involve sacrifice - and people who are prepared to be self-sacrificial make impressive role models for others.
Because by supporting Traidcraft you're making a difference - to all the families who can look forward to a brighter, better future because of what you do.