Revd John Boardman spoke about “The Fairtrade foundation and meeting the suppliers in Sri Lanka” at the Open Forum of Churches Together in Sudbury & District, in December 2017. His talk was illustrated with numerous photos.
Ann and John travelled to Sri Lanka with Traidcraft visiting the people who supply some of the goods found in the Traidcraft catalogue, a ‘holiday with a difference’. They went in Jan-Feb 2016. Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist with a small Christian minority. The trip included an elephant safari and an opportunity to see some of the conservation projects.
The main business of the trip involved meeting suppliers of fair trade goods including a cotton factory at Selyn. The cotton is grown in India and comes to Sri Lanka raw. It is then dyed, spun and woven. The dying process is hot work, but all of the effluent from the process is reused, making it more environmentally friendly. Once the fabric is produced it is made up into different items which are marketed worldwide.
John and Ann also visited a spice factory and tasted the wares! They visited one of the fair trade tea estates at Thotulegala and were taught how to pick tea. It takes 45kg of tea leaves to make 1kg of dried tea. They met fair trade representatives who spoke positively about their working relationship with the company.
John and Ann visited ‘Gospel House’ where fair trade toys are made and saw many of the toys that are sold by Traidcraft, again they met many of the reps who spoke of the benefits of being a fair trade worker.
Coconuts are used in many different ways in Sri Lanka and fair trade coconut milk and coir compost are both available.
When we buy fair trade there is a small amount of premium which is given to the local fair trade representatives to use to enrich the community, providing healthcare, education or leisure facilities.
Sudbury has a fair trade group (of which John is chairman) and they have a guide to the town showing where fair trade goods can be brought. There are concerns however about Sainsbury’s suppliers as their tea no longer bears the fair trade mark. John has a letter for the manager of Sudbury Sainsbury’s raising these concerns. A number of other companies are also marketing their own ‘fairly traded’ products, but these don’t provide the same amount of premium or choice for the workers.
John also spoke about concerns of how Brexit might affect fair trade laws and conditions. He encouraged people to lobby and ask questions regarding the renegotiation of trade agreements and linked this with the Advent message of justice given by John the Baptist.