Fair Trade

By Sara Hanson

Jennifer Marshall and Eric Shorten became infamous around campus last week after being escorted out of MacEwan Student Centre while trying to complete a survey about fair trade.

The survey–which they were eventually allowed to continue–is being used for a general studies class project and is also the beginning of a much larger campaign.

“The whole point [of the campaign] is that people just don’t know what fair trade means,” explained Marshall. “Make Poverty History is a mainstream campaign that a lot of people know about, but they don’t realize that fair trade is a part of this.”

The Coffee Company, Good Earth, and Ploughboy are currently the only three places on campus where students can purchase fair trade coffee, but Marshall and Shorten hope to change this.

“Our goal is to increase fair trade coffee on campus, especially in Mac Hall, by April 2006,” said Shorten. “We want each company to at least have one option for students.”

After examining the preliminary results of the survey, Shorten found there is positive support from students.

“We found that those students who know about fair trade are more likely to pay a little extra for a cup of fair trade coffee than those who don’t know what fair trade is about,” explained Shorten.

The producers of fair trade products have been paid decent wages for their work. Marshall explained more about how the concept works.

“The whole premise of fair trade is a direct relationship between the farmer and the consumer,” sh said. “There is no middle man, which means less competition amongst the farmers.”

Shorten explained how competition among multinational corporations can harm the producers of raw goods like coffee.

“There are four major companies who dominate the coffee market,” he said. “Farmers compete to have the lowest price possible so that these companies will buy from them, but then the farmers receive less money.”

Marshall and Shorten hope the survey results can convince campus vendors to offer fair trade options.

“We are going to use the surveys to show the companies that they won’t lose money from selling fair trade coffee,” explained Shorten.

Although the idea of fair trade is still relatively unknown, Marshall believes it is a great way to help reduce poverty in third world countries.

“Fair trade lets farmers empower themselves, rather than them having to depend on others for help,” she said.

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