Alliance Councillor Michael Long has accused Castlereagh Council of “tastelessly” watering down its own policy on purchasing Fair Trade coffee and tea.
Following calls from Alliance, the Council adopted a Fair Trade policy in 2001. However, new figures show that less than half of beverages bought were Fair Trade.
Speaking at the start of Fairtrade Fortnight, Cllr Long, who previously worked on Alliance’s Jubilee 2000 campaign to cancel Third World debt, called for the Council to take the lead and support those suffering from poverty.
Cllr Long said: “These figures show Castlereagh Council’s Fair Trade policy to be as weak as a wet teabag. When Alliance proposed a Fair Trade policy we wanted to see the Council show real civic leadership by making a real contribution to Third World farmers who have been exploited by so-called ‘free trade’ arrangements for many years.
“Less than half of the Council’s spending on beverages goes on Fair Trade products, yet the Assembly and other Councils have adopted real Fair Trade policies, showing true solidarity with those in dire poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Why can’t Castlereagh do the same?
“When I raised the issue, I was appalled by the reaction of some Councillors, who whinged about the increased costs associated. I certainly found such comments tasteless, as growers deserve a fair price rather than the exploitative pittance currently paid.
“The ignorance of some Councillors about trade matters and the inherent bias faced by Third World farmers in competition with huge multinational corporations was astounding. It’s time they woke up and smelt the real cost of coffee.
“As a result of the debate, it was left to me to find alternative Fair Trade. Surely if the Council was really concerned, a more pro-active approach should be taken? I would appeal to any Fair Trade producers to help me give Castlereagh councillors a real taste of how to improve the prospects of those living in poverty by contacting me through the Council. I am anxious to get as wide a selection of suitable brands in the hope that one of them will meet their exacting standards.”
Regular: Tea 9 packets £194.84
Coffee 24 packets £259.00
Fair Trade Tea 2 packets £70.00
Coffee 24 packets £270.00
Total spend £793.84 Fair Trade- 42.8%
Fairtrade details_ www.fairtrade.org.uk
Fairtrade Fortnight- March 1-14 marking the 10th anniversary of the mark.