Should you need an excuse for eating chocolate and buying jewellery, here's the perfect reason - Fairtrade goods mean you can help people across the world while you fill your shopping basket.

BRING some justice to the world - sit down, have a coffee and a bar of chocolate. Sounds good to me. And, in a way, it's almost that simple.

We are in the middle of Fairtrade Fortnight. Fairtrade means that products are manufactured, grown, sold, without any exploitation. No middlemen making a fortune. Producers are organised democratically and paid a Fairtrade price and because so many of the producers work in co-operatives, whole communities benefit.

It is a good way to do business.

In the early days, Fairtrade had a fairly worthy reputation. But it has won many more converts simply because the food is good. Now people are as likely to choose Fairtrade for taste as much as principle - particularly items like their chocolate, fruit juice or biscuits - which ultimately makes it much more likely to succeed.

From its beginnings about 40 years ago years ago, the Fairtrade movement really took off in the early 90s, when a number of agencies were concerned about the way in which big businesses - especially in products like tea and coffee - could destroy entire communities as world commodity prices rose and collapsed. Guaranteed prices and decent conditions could, literally, be life savers, enabling growers to stay in business.

Fairtrade coffee now represents 14 per cent of the coffee we buy and drink in this country. As well as specialist shops and most major supermarkets, you can also get Fairtrade coffee at Costa Coffee, Starbucks and Pret a Manger.

Sainsbury's now sells a million Fairtrade bananas every week. Tesco and the Co-op now sell them too. Fairtrade pineapples have recently arrived in the Co-op and there are plans to bring in more tropical and exotic fruits.

The Co-op, which has the widest range of Fairtrade goods, most clearly displayed, recently decided to use only Fairtrade cocoa in their own brand chocolate - which could double the sales of Fairtrade chocolate in the UK.

Such is the growing success of Fairtrade - worth £59m last year - that now the Soil Association and Fairtrade are discussing ways of extending the mark to British produce.

Something to think about as you eat that chocolate bar...

There are a number of events on in the region to mark Fairtrade Fortnight. They include:

Today: Actionaid Coffee break, Great Smeaton Village Hall, 10am-noon.

Fairtrade stand at Savacentre, Stockton, 7.30am-7.30pm.

Tuesday, March 11:Lord Mayor of Newcastle's Fairtrade Gala Dinner, Copthorne Hotel.

Public meeting with speakers from a co-operative in Ghana, Northumbria University, 4pm.

Friday, March 14: Fairtrade lunch, with stalls, St Luke's Church, Ferryhill midday-2pm.

And the Co-op is offering a 20 per cent discount on its range of Fairtrade goods.


This is the UK's largest Fairtrade organisation. Its catalogue is full of clothes, jewellery, food and household goods.

In its latest catalogue, we particularly liked its cheap and cheerful glass bead bracelet £3, from India; a splendid hand-made hammock, £30, made by women in Bangladesh and the big toy bag £10 also made by them.

There's a good range of cards, and, of course, the chocolate. Fairtrade chocolate must be one of the great successes of our time. Fancy being able to munch chocolate and help redress some of the world's injustices at the same time. Has to be worth a go.

We particularly like Tradicraft organic Continental Praline bars - much too moreish - and the Divine chocolate bars.

And it gets better - you can even buy Traidcraft wine. Three varieties from South Africa, two from Chile. From £56 for a case of 12.



Tel: 0191 494 0591

Kingsway, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, NE11 ONE


Small but perfectly formed, the Gateway World Shop in Durham has been doing Fairtrade business for more than 20 years - started in the days when Dr George Carey was vicar there.

It's a member of the British Association of Fairtrade shops which means that at least 75 per cent of its goods must be fair traded, but it's higher than that.

It's tucked into a corner of St Nicholas' Church but opens out onto a prime position in the Market Place and although small , stocks a surprisingly wide range of goods in a light and airy shop, though it's just nudging gently into the church. Customers come from far and wide and all backgrounds.

"Students are very good customers," says assistant Kathryn Sygrove, "And we get a lot of regular customers who want wholefoods. And of course a lot of customers are tourists who just some drifting in and like what they see."

The shop carries a good range of Fairtrade food - tea, coffee and chocolate are particularly popular, though they can also offer you dried oyster mushrooms, figs, honey, posh biscuits and breakfast cereals. There are plenty of textiles, clothes, pottery and ceramics. There's an excellent range of hand-made cards and some very attractive other stationery and photo frames. And if you can't see what you want, they have a good ordering service too.

While most of the products come from developing countries, they also sell British products including glass from Camphill village at Botton, near Whitby.

"In the 20 years that we've been here the idea of fair trade has got more widely known." Says shop co-ordinator Barbara Lee, "The food is our best seller. Not just because it's fairly traded but because it tastes good too."

Definitely a winning combination.


The first ever product to receive the Fairtrade mark was Green and Black's Maya Gold chocolate bar.

The bar was created when the company founders, Craig Sams and Josephine Fairley visited Maya in Belize and drank a local drink flavoured with cocoa beans and spices. Inspired, they decided to capture the taste in Mayan Gold chocolate - dark chocolate with a twist of orange, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.

Returning to the co-op in Belize they found that a large chocolate corporation had offered the Mayan farmers a lot of money to plant hybrid cocoa trees instead of the local variety, only to slash prices and leave the community in economic ruin.

Green and Black's - the world's first organic chocolate brand - offered to trade direct with the growers, paying them premium rates and ensuring that their cocoa was grown under the shade of rainforest trees so as not to harm the fragile ecosystem.

The farmers have a future, so does the rain forest - and we get a good quality grownup chocolate bar. They do a Maya Gold Easter egg too.



£1.52 for 456g

A loaf-style cake made with Fairtrade sugar from Paraguay and Fairtrade Chocolate Flavour Chips and Cocoa Beans - minimum Fairtade ingredients 27 per cent.

This is a serious chocolate cake - rich, dark, moist and with a slight hint of bitterness rather than sickly sweet. Good taste, good texture. If this is responsible shopping, well, we'll have a slice of that.

BOUQUET OF THE WEEK has given its space to help the world, this week. It will be back as usual next week, so if you know a helpful shop assistant, decent firm or good neighbour that deserves a public pat on the back, the send all the details to Bouquet of the Week, Sharon Griffiths, The Northern Echo, Pristgate, Darlington, DL1 1NF. Each week the person nominated in our main letter gets a real bouquet of flowers or a box of posh chocs.