Transcript

Coffee with a Conscience

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Narration:

A humble cup of coffee might be the thing that gets you going in the morning, but follow that little bean on the journey it’s taken and you might find that long black, soy cappuccino or strong latte you might enjoy in the morning is a lot more important than you might think.

Narration:

Because it’s coffee, well Fair Trade coffee, that has began to make a huge difference to producers in the developing world. So what is it about that little coffee bean that makes it so powerful? Well recently I spoke to Joanna Watts, one of La Trobe’s fair trade advocates and one of the main players behind a recent push to turn La Trobe into only the 3rd Fair Trade university in Australia to find out exactly what Fair Trade means?

Jo Watts:

Fair Trade basically means a better deal for the producers in the developing world, and over time, probably for about the last twenty years, the amount of money people are getting from crops like tea and coffee and cocoa has been declining really rapidly. We’ve got to the point now where many producers can’t sustain an acceptable standard of living. Fair Trade offers a way out of that by offering a minimum price. They will never get less than that amount of money and that’s an acceptable payment for them, but it means they should be able to pay fair wages and they should be able to maintain an acceptable standard of living.

Narration:

And it’s not only the La Trobe staff that have taken on the responsibility of promoting the University’s Fair Trade credentials.

Inca and Nick:

Hi my name is Nick, I’m Inca Dunphy.

Narration:

Recently I spoke to Inca and Nick a couple of students involved in the organisation of a Fair Trade week at the University.

Inca:

Yesterday we had a film screening of the film, Black Gold in the Agora cinema over lunchtime and gave out free chocolate and coffee samples, so a few people came to that. Later in the day we had a Fair Trade soccer match, so we used an Etico Fair Trade soccer ball an kicked that around and some people cooked up a big pot of soup. Just getting to know your community and all that and today we had the big event in the Agora, so we’ve got a couple of external organisations as well as some student stalls.

Question:

What’s been the main response or the main questions of the students that you’ve spoken to today, what have been the things that they don’t know or they do?

Inca & Nick:

A few people haven’t ever heard of Fair Trade so that’s been a starting point. There’s been a mixed response. A lot of people don’t know anything about Fair Trade, and there are some that do know of it, but don’t know exactly how it works and that’s why we’ve had this week. It’s been great for raising awareness and how it exactly works with floor price and the Fair Trade premium and how you can become involved as well, because a lot of people might know of the problem but they don’t know how they can help. That’s they great thing about Fair Trade, it’s something anyone can be involved in. Just by choosing Fair Trade, becoming a Fair Trade community, becoming a Fair Trade registered workplace.

Narration:

And this is what La Trobe is hoping to achieve, so the question is, why is becoming a Fair Trade University so important to La Trobe?

Jo Watts:

There are a number of reasons why it’s a great fit for La Trobe. It comes down really to our objectives as an institution that has social responsibility at its core and it’s a great fit with the strategic objectives that we have. Sustainability is something that is very important to the University and part of Fair Trade is about sustainability, it’s about sustaining communities, it’s also about environmental sustainability, because if communities are able to invest in their own agriculture which is one of the other ways they use their premium from Fair Trade, then they can improve their farming techniques. Their often going to go for organic labelling, a process which benefits sustainability as well, so there are a number of ways in which it links in with our aims as a university as well.

Question:

Where is La Trobe up to in terms of Fair Trade, I know two or three of the retailers in the Agora are Fair Trade, I think there is another two, Bake and Bean and Caffeine that are going to become Fair Trade soon?

Jo Watts:

The Fair Trade association of Australia and New Zealand has an initiative called Fair Trade communities and that allows them to recognise people who support and promote Fair Trade. So La Trobe is intending to register as a Fair Trade university and there are a number of goals we have to meet to be able to achieve that registration. We’re quite along way down quite a few of them. As regards to the retail outlets in the Agora, we’re hoping that the enthusiasm of the students and the staff have for Fair Trade will encourage more of them to introduce a Fair Trade line. They do have some challenges because a number of them are tied to their coffee companies because they lease their equipment from those particular suppliers and they have to use those coffees. If that coffee company doesn’t have a Fair Trade line they have some problems. A lot of them do, and that’s how Caffeine and Bake and Bean are able to do it, they can go with the Atomica line who have a Fair Trade line they can go in with. But there are a number of other suppliers who offer Fair Trade and we’re hoping they’ll spread the word through pressure of consumers and from people wanting to buy it.

Question:

The University, to become Fair Trade, also needs to use these suppliers?

Jo Watts:

For the University’s meetings yes, we will need to use Fair Trade tea and coffee in all university meetings and also through the departments if people are purchasing tea and coffee through their departmental budgets then they have to be purchasing Fair Trade tea and coffee, and we’re working towards that and think that will happen fairly soon.

Narration:

Ok, time to try one of these Fair Trade coffees for myself. So I decided to head down to catch up with Hemal, the owner of Caffine in the University’s Agora to find out what exactly what its like to support Fair Trade from retailers perspective.

Hemal:

The reason we have chosen to go Fair Trade is that in the last few months a lot of our customers have been asking about it. So I guess it’s got a lot to do with them and just providing a product that will satisfy the customer’s needs. In terms of how much we’re selling it’s probably close to 6 – 8% of current customers have started buying Fair Trade, usually at this time of year we do close to 650 shots of coffee of which about 45 shots are Fair Trade.

Question:

Do you guys support Fair Trade or was it just to provide the customers with that option?

Hemal:

If you’re bettering the lives of farmer abroad in developing countries then why isn’t everyone else doing Fair Trade? So it’s good for both customer’s requests as well as providing something for the people who are doing the coffee on the ground.

Narration:

And really in the end, isn’t that what Fair Trade is all about?

Jo Watts:

There are about 50 countries around the world benefitting from Fair Trade, and I think the current statistics is that it’s helped around 7 million people and their communities. Place like West Africa, the Ivory Coast it’s particularly important for cocoa production, that’s where there is a lot of issues with child slave labour being used in the cocoa plantations but all around Africa. Ethiopia, Uganda, all sorts of countries where coffee production is important. In Ethiopia it’s about 67% of their export is coffee, so it can make a huge difference if that can be Fair Trade coffee.

Nick:

If you can, well use Fair Trade where you can. If your in the supermarket and you see a generic product and a Fair Trade product, I know they might cost a fair bit more, but really you’ve gotta think of where your getting your product from, think about where the food your getting is coming from, be aware of the conditions in these developing countries and you’ll see how often its worth it just to provide that extra support for developing countries and farmers.

Jo Watts:

For it to become, pretty much accepted as a mainstream product and there are some steps that have happened that I think will help that, Cadbury have announced recently that their going to make dairy milk Fair Trade from April next year. I think once it’s out there and people see it on the shelves and think ‘well this is great, we’ll try it’ and then it become very ordinary and everyday and it’s a bit like the green bags in the supermarket. You start to think, ‘well how did we ever get away without doing this?’ It becomes so obvious.

Question:

Do you have advice for consumers?

Jo Watts:

Just try it; there are so many different products you can try, different brands. If you try something and you don’t like it there will be something else that you do. As far as tea and coffee goes it shouldn’t really cost any more so this isn’t about charity, this isn’t about sacrificing things for the greater good. It’s about getting products that are very good quality and are just as good as non Fair Trade and you can drink them with and good conscience.

Narration:

And sometimes it’s as simple as that. So next time maybe think about that coffee with a conscience, and just buy asking for Fair Trade you can help create that sustainable future for those in the developing world.

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