Letter: Fair Trade's work against poverty

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Sir: The excellent report on ethical shopping ("Are you shopping soundly", 29 April) is, however, somewhat misleading about Oxfam's view of Fair Trade.

Contrary to the impression given, Oxfam can guarantee that our trade with partners in the Third World is ethical and humane. What we can't guarantee is that producers and consumers will have the same perception of what constitutes a fair price. Workers anxious to rise above the poverty level in Bangladesh will obtain from Oxfam what those workers consider a fair price for their products - certainly a better price than they would obtain from a purely commercial buyer. But that price would still seem low to a consumer in this country.

Another problem is that consumers in the UK understandably react with horror to the phrase "child labour". In practice, there is an enormous difference between exploitative or bonded labour, in which the child is used virtually as a slave by an employer, and informal home-based work, usually after school or in the holidays, to help the family earn a living wage. Such work is a consequence of poverty for many people. Fair Trade is a way of helping people out of the poverty which makes it necessary.

Fair Trade is a gradual process whereby the producers bring about a sustained increase in their standard of living, and that of their children, within the communities in which they live. For that they need the trust and steady support of consumers.

Yours sincerely,

RACHEL WILSHAW

Oxfam Trading

Oxford

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