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Lamb reassures local farmers of Fairtrade’s commitment

Lamb reassures local farmers of Fairtrade’s commitment

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The Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation Dame Harriet Lamb wrapped up a one day visit to this country Wednesday, January 18.{{more}}

Lamb, who has spent the last decade at the helm of the agricultural organization, said that her visit to the island was to hear firsthand the issues affecting local farmers and to see what role her organization could play in assisting farmers.

She also met with some of the other key stakeholders in the agricultural sector, including a group of female farmers and agro-processors.

She explained that the Fairtrade Foundation is a system by which the public can be assured that the products they purchase which bear the Fairtrade label are those where the farmers have received a fair deal.

The relationship between this country, and more specifically the Windward Islands Farmers Association (WINFA), dates back some 12 years.

It started off as a small group, but the word got around and the organization has expanded.

A major part of Lamb’s visit was to reassure the commitment of Fairtrade to the local farmers.

“I would absolutely want to reassure all the farmers of our commitment in the Fairtrade system to supporting the farmers of the Windward Islands, including St Vincent,” she said.

“We know the public wants to support them. We know that people want to buy their product and that they are getting a fair price and that they are in the driving seat of their trade.”

Proof of Fairtrade’s commitment, according to Lamb, was the presence of Justin King, Chief Executive Officer of Sainsbury’s Supermarket chain in the United Kingdom.

“I can assure you that he wouldn’t come on a visit like this if the company he represents was not committed to the banana farmers of the islands and to making sure that they can go on selling Fairtrade bananas,” she explained.

He was here five years ago, and back then he was committed to the farmers and now with the significant amount of growth of the brand was an indication that they (farmers) could place their confidence in Fairtrade.

Sales in 2010 reached the 1 billion pound sterling mark, which is significant according to Lamb.

While she contended that she was pleased with the commitment pledged by the government and saw the dedication put in by the local farmers, Lamb said that there was much more that the local farming community could do.

“Fairtrade is not a one minute solution and it’s not a magic wand. This is about a long term process of change where if you build consumer demand if you engage the companies, work with governments and exporters such as WINFRESH, together they can find solutions to the different problems,” Lamb told SEARCHLIGHT.

On the issue of diversification, Lamb said that her organization currently works with 1.5 million farmers in 63 countries on a wide range of crops and that the company is always on the look out for any product from disadvantaged producers in the developing world.

She, however, noted the limited space and working knowledge with bananas, but was adamant of the possibilities for crops such as spices and ginger.

Lamb said that she was pleased to hear that the country was exploring the possibilities of producing cocoa, adding that it made sense to look at other options.

But hope remained in the strength of the people, she told SEARCHLIGHT, and the farmers have demonstrated this over the years.

“I won’t say that Fairtrade alone is the answer, and it’s sad that protection has been stripped away and help for developing nations has been lacking from international leaders,” she said.

Lamb further explained that while the country may never return to the glory days of bananas, there was something else to look forward to in the future, and that was the development of the country, but it was important that agriculture not be abandoned.

“We must support the small holder,” she said. (DD)

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