London marks progress towards becoming a Fairtrade city

London's real progress towards becoming a Fairtrade city has been announced by Deputy Mayor Nicky Gavron, but the message resounding through City Hall is that more must still be done to secure the title.

This week two more London boroughs, Kingston and Lewisham, announced that the Fairtrade Foundation had granted them Fairtrade Borough status, allowing them to join existing London Fairtrade Boroughs, Croydon, Lambeth and Camden to take the capital’s total up to five.

“London is doing well but we have a lot more to do in order to meet the criteria that will make us a Fairtrade City,” London Mayor Ken Livingstone stated. “But I congratulate all those working hard across the capital to move the campaign forward. By choosing Fairtrade, London’s consumers can have a real impact on the lives of many farmers and communities in the developing world.”

Ms Gavron reinforced the Mayor’s message, calling on all of London’s councils, retailers, businesses, schools, colleges and the public at large to choose Fairtrade products wherever possible.

“The developed world dominates markets and dumps its subsidized agricultural produce at below cost,” she explained. “Fairtrade is about levelling the playing field. It helps producers in developing countries to lift themselves, their families and their communities out of poverty. London’s Fairtrade City campaign should send a clear message to boost support throughout the UK and beyond.”

London’s announcement falls against the backdrop of Fairtrade Fortnight 2005, running from 1-13 March this year, and stresses its call to consumers across the UK to Check out Fairtrade and find out more about it, the only independent certification scheme guaranteeing a fair deal for farmers in developing countries.

New figures show growing interest in the scheme as the value of UK Fairtrade sales rose by 51% between 2003 and 2004, making it worth around £140 million. The number of certified Fairtrade products has also risen from 150 in 2003 to 834 today, with core products including coffee, tea, bananas and chocolate, as well as newer products such as flowers, wines and oils.

Harriett Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation, said that the London Fairtrade campaign was unique, with challenging targets having been set to match the size, profile and complexity of the city.

“We are confident our targets can be achieved, enabling London to be declared a Fairtrade City,” she commented. “But we need every shopper, every schoolchild, every workplace or business and every community group to play their part. By simply choosing products guaranteed by the Fairtrade Mark, Londoners can be confident that they are transforming the lives and opportunities for thousands of hardworking communities in 49 poor countries around the world.”

London’s fairtrade progress announcement was made at a reception sponsored by the Co-operative Group, which welcomed council leaders and chief executives, London Assembly members, and representatives from London’s business, higher and further education, trade union and voluntary sectors.

Two Ghanaian cocoa farmers from the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative, which owns The Day Chocolate Company, joined speakers at the reception to bring the Fairtrade message to life and share their experiences. Anna Awere, from the Western Region in Ghana, told delegates:

“We are very glad to see that Fairtrade is important here in London. Our message is that if it weren’t for Fairtrade we wouldn’t be able to feed our families or send them to school. Carry on buying Fairtrade – it really makes a difference!”

By Jane Kettle

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie