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Coffee crisis - to give first hand account

Immediate Release

Coffee crisis - Costa Rican farmer to give first hand account

A Costa Rican coffee farmer is coming downunder to tell New Zealand consumers how Fair Trade benefits small scale producers in developing countries.

Guillermo Vargas Leiton, a second generation coffee farmer, will be touring New Zealand as part of Fair Trade Fortnight and discussing how Kiwis can give farmers in developing countries a “hand up” rather than a “hand out” by simply changing the brand of coffee they buy in the supermarket.

“I want to reduce the distance between the producer and the consumer. If we can look one another in the eyes, we can understand each other’s needs,” Mr Vargas said.

Fair Trade is an alternative approach to conventional trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalised producers and workers in developing countries.

When consumers buy Fairtrade accredited products, they buy a guarantee that the producers are getting a fair price for their product or labour. Consumption of Fairtrade coffee in New Zealand increased 40 fold over the six months from June to December 2004 and continues to grow at a rapid rate as Kiwi coffee drinkers decide to change the world one cup at a time! Fairtrade tea and coffee are now available in a range of cafes and supermarkets as well as at Trade Aid.

Guillermo is the manager of St Elena Coffee Cooperative and will be visiting Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland from 16th to 20th May. The cooperative is situated high in the mountains of the Monteverde region of Costa Rica and exports 35 per cent of its coffee to the international Fairtrade market. In 2001, many Costa Rican coffee farmers were forced off their land and into poverty when coffee prices plummeted to record lows. The 64 small coffee producers in Guillermo’s cooperative were protected from the crisis by their Fairtrade contracts which enabled them to keep their farms and even offer educational scholarships to the local children.

In the last twelve months, 17 of New Zealand’s speciality coffee roasters have begun stocking high quality beans from Fairtrade certified farmers such as Guillermo. Meanwhile, the ‘big four’ roaster companies, Nestlé, Sara Lee, Procter & Gamble and Kraft continue to control almost half the world’s coffee crop, giving them the market power to force down the price paid to farmers while maintaining huge profit margins.

“Those involved in the coffee trade know there is terrible human suffering at the heart of the business,” said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam NZ. “They need to be part of the solution.”

“The coffee industry needs a reminder that the people who enjoy drinking their coffee also care about the livelihoods of the people who grow the crop,” said Geoff White, General Manager of Trade Aid Importers. “Coffee drinkers can help by buying Fair Trade products and by persuading their places of work, local councils, supermarkets and cafes to stock Fair Trade products, starting with Fairtrade coffee.”

Guillermo’s visit is jointly arranged by Oxfam New Zealand, Trade Aid and the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand, to highlight the crisis faced by coffee farmers in recent years and to raise public awareness about fair trade.

Speaking tour events:

Guillermo Vargas Leiton, is speaking about the impact that Fairtrade consumers are having on his community at the following public venues, together with speakers from Oxfam and Trade Aid: Sunday 15th May, 7.30pm – Church of Christ, St Andrews St, DUNEDIN Monday 16th May, 1.00pm – Otago University, DUNEDIN Monday 16th May, 6.00pm – Te Whakarukahau Li Otautahi, CHRISTCHURCH Tuesday 17th May, 1.00pm - Victoria University, WELLINGTON Thursday 19th May, 7.30pm – Parnell Anglican Cathedral, AUCKLAND Friday 20th May, 10.00am – Auckland University, AUCKLAND

WELLINGTON: Beehive reception
On Wednesday 18th May, the Honorable Marian Hobbs, Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade responsible for Overseas Development Assistance, is hosting a reception for Guillermo Vargas Leiton at the Beehive. Guillermo is speaking about the impact that Fairtrade consumers are having on his community in Costa Rica. Barry Coates (Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand) and Geoff White (General Manager of Trade Aid) are speaking about the global Fair Trade movement and what is happening in New Zealand. This event is open to the public. RSVPs by 11th May are essential – please email fairtrade@oxfam.org.nz if you would like to attend.

Other events happening during Fair Trade Fortnight:

New Zealand’s Biggest Morning Tea locations

All 30 Trade Aid shops around the country are taking part in New Zealand’s Biggest Morning Tea. In addition, the following businesses have confirmed they will be promoting Fair Trade as part of the Biggest Morning Tea promotion: Upshot Coffee Company, Station Road, Heathcote Valley, Christchurch Vivace Café, Hereford Street, Christchurch Mondo, High Street, Christchurch Cup, Cashmere, Christchurch Underground Coffee Company, Colombo Street, Christchurch Mandala Restaurant, Bar and Coffee House, Westport Pomeroys, Hardy Street, Nelson Golden Bay Organics, Takaka Peoples Coffee, Newtown, Wellington Post Espresso, Newtown, Wellington The Ballroom Café, Newtown, Wellington Pranah Café, Newtown, Wellington Colville General Store, Coromandel

For an up-to-date listing, visit www.oxfam.org.nz.

Fair Trade Fiesta Try delicious free Fairtrade coffee, enjoy great music and find out more about Fair Trade at our Fair Trade Fiestas: Friday, 20th May – George Street, DUNEDIN (time to be confirmed) Friday, 20th May, 12pm-2pm – City Mall, Cashel Street, CHRISTCHURCH Saturday, 21st May, 2.00pm-5.30pm, Aotea Square, AUCKLAND Saturday, 21st May – Cuba Mall, WELLINGTON (time to be confirmed)

For complete up-to-date information about Fair Trade Fortnight or to find out more about Fair Trade, visit www.oxfam.org.nz, www.tradeaid.org.nz or www.fta.org.nz

Fair Trade Fortnight 2005 is being coordinated by Oxfam, Trade Aid and the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand, with the support of NZAID.


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