It makes sense to be aware of the many benefits of buying Fairtrade

Fairtrade bananas
Fairtrade bananas

Fairtrade is a socially ethical movement whose goal is to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions and to promote sustainable farming. They check that their standards have been met by the farmers, workers and companies that are part of the products supply chain.

The Fairtrade mark on packaging ensures that the criteria has been certified. There are over 4,500 Fairtrade products from coffee and tea to flowers and even gold.

In the UK there are 500 Fairtrade towns, 118 universities, over 6,000 churches and over 4,000 schools registered to the Fairtrade Schools Scheme.

Fairtrade Fortnight starts on Monday, February 26, and runs until March 11. It makes sense to be aware of, and buy, Fairtrade products as this can often be a much more efficient way of promoting sustainable development than traditional charity and aid. Many growers in developing countries testify that without their support, it wouldn’t make economic sense to continue in business.

Big conglomerates offered so little for the produce, that it was actually costing money to farm, never mind allowing producers to make a profit. Much the same has happened to dairy farmers here – a price war between big corporations forced the price down so much that many went out of business altogether. Everyone I speak to says they would pay more for milk to support our farmers – maybe it’s time not just to support farmers abroad that are in need, but to shift the focus closer to home.

Northern Irish lamb farmers also suffer at the hands of cheaper imports. No one can explain why it costs less to buy meat that has travelled thousands of miles, as opposed to produce that is farmed within a 50 mile radius of where we live. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is and buy local.

My first recipe combines slow roast shoulder of lamb from Northern Ireland, combined with Fairtrade dates and almonds. Smoky, succulent lamb with the sweetness of dates, a nutty crunch from the almonds, served with kale. A few Ulster spuds will complete the perfect, ethical dish!

One of the most available and plentiful Fairtrade products is bananas. They make the perfect snack but are also a main part of a traditional north of England dessert. When I lived in the city in the 90’s, the Manchester Tart was something I really did not want to like. A shortcake base, topped with jam, bananas cooked in rum, a layer of custard and finished off with a coating of toasted coconut. It sounds like a disaster but it’s one of the most comforting, feel good puddings you might ever eat. Again this recipe combines Fairtrade items with good dairy from the province – a win win situation.

For more information on Fairtrade go to fairtrade.org.uk

We don’t grow bananas or dates here but ensuring farmers who do, whatever country they live, get a proper price,should be a priority.

We should also be supporting our own farmers – local produce is often better quality, has a limited carbon food print, and the benefits, our own well being and the economy, is far reaching.