Oxfam’s Fair Trade Fair a “Success”

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Written by Scott Gilbert

On Tuesday of this week the Guelph chapter of the NGO Oxfam Canada held what they called a “Fair Trade Fair” in the University Centre courtyard. The event was hosted by the new CSA Oxfam-Guelph, which started last year and ran several referendum questions in the CSA elections. One of their questions asked students if they supporting bringing more fair trade certified products onto campus, and the result was overwhelmingly in support.

The fair on Tuesday ended up being smaller that originally advertised because some of the groups that were invited , like Planet Bean, a Guelph based fair trade coffee company that supplies the Bullring and the Brass Taps with coffee, were unable to come. Groups in attendance were the Toronto based Fair Trade Clothing Co-op as well as Equita, which is based in Montreal but has recently expanded to Toronto.

The groups present offered information about fair trade, as well as samples and products. Some of the items that student purchased included cotton clothing, coffee, tea, rice, sugar, spices, chocolate, soap and olive oil. All of the items sold were either Fair Trade Certified or “Fairly Traded”.

The difference between the two is that “Fair Trade Certified” is a trade marked phrase that means it is certified by TransFair Canada, the national initiative of the Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO). TransFair and FLO only monitor the commodity production itself, such as cotton or rice. The term “Fairly Traded” is not trade marked, and usually refers to fair wages and working conditions at the labour stages in other parts of the supply chain, such as the assembly of clothing.

Both groups said they were surprised at the interest students took in their products, and were happy to have participated. Sean Field, who was one of the organizers from Oxfam Guelph, said he was happy that the event went so well and says the group is considering plans to organize a similar event in the winter semester. He went on to say that the event "was meant to bring together members of the community that are striving to improve international trade relations through local action" and that "this fair was a success and the students were very supportive".

Fair Trade is a term used to describe a recent movement towards improving the living conditions of commodity producers from around the world by making the transactions more direct. Many of the small companies in Canada that sell fair trade products purchase them directly from the groups that are producing them, which allows them to cut out intermediates who usually take some of the money. The idea is to provide more income to the people that produce the commodities so they can invest more in social programs like education, healthcare and sustainable development. To learn more about fair trade in Canada, please visit TransFair Canada’s website here.

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