An encouraging year for Fairtrade group

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The Melrose and District Fairtrade Group has been looking back on 2014 with a justifiable sense of satisfaction.

At the start of 2014 this newly-formed organisation had modest plans to achieve a couple of key goals during the year – to raise awareness of the Fairtrade movement and its benefits, and to assess the use and availability of Fairtrade products locally.

In March, during National Fairtrade Fortnight, the group held its formal launch, performed by Councillor Iain Gillespie from Scottish Borders Council. The event was staged at the Trinity Centre in Melrose as part of their regular coffee morning and sale of fairly-traded goods. All three local churches are now signed up with the Fairtrade Foundation to using Fairtrade tea, coffee and sugar for their congregation and visitors.

During Fairtrade Fortnight, Melrose Primary School “went bananas” by selling fairly-traded fruit and showing how bananas could be used in baking and other dishes. Later in the year, the school opened a Fairtrade tuckshop.

The group has worked extensively with the local primary school over the year.

This has included giving a presentation about Fairtrade to the whole of P7, coupled with a slideshow of the visits some group members have made to see first-hand how Fairtrade has already benefited farmers and producers in developing countries.

The group was also keen to understand better local knowledge and attitudes to the idea of Fairtrade and fairly-traded products. In April, Melrose Primary School offered to run an online survey of parents and carers.

More than 40 per cent of those who took part indicated that they bought Fairtrade goods every week, with an additional 13 per cent purchasing these products at least once per month.

Almost half of those responding said they would be more inclined to shop in Melrose if more retailers stocked Fairtrade products. Interestingly, almost two-thirds felt that obtaining Fairtrade Town status for Melrose would make the town more attractive to visitors.

A survey of local businesses was also undertaken, which discovered that many were already committed to providing Fairtrade products, with many more keen to do so. Melrose’s two supermarkets between them stock more than 30 different Fairtrade items and the Country Kitchen Deli offers seven fairly-traded items. Most of the local town centre B&Bs use Fairtrade tea, coffee and sugar for their guests, as do two of the major local hotels.

Much was also learned about possible barriers, such as some businesses being tied to particular suppliers.

Overall, the group has had a successful and encouraging year, with a greatly-increased profile and stronger links with other local organisations.

The group now hopes to build on the past year’s success.

Jenni Young, chair of the Melrose group, said: “I hope all this preliminary work will come to fruition by achieving Fairtrade Town status for Melrose and district.’

If any community group in Gattonside, Newstead or Bowden would like Melrose and District Fairtrade Group to bring a slideshow – complete with a selection of Fairtrade samples – to its meeting, please contact the group secretary, Dave Potts, on 01896 823002.