There may be over 5,000 miles between a livestock farm in the Welsh Valleys and a coffee and spice farm in Kerala, India, but the challenges they face are not such a world apart.
Welcoming spice and coffee farmer Father John Joseph from Wayanad in the state of Kerala, India, to Pencoedcae Farm, Princetown, near Tredegar, was Farmers’ Union of Wales Vice President Brian Bowen.
The farm is a mixed suckler cow and sheep hill unit. It consists of 150 acres of owned land with a further 1,000 rented acres and 1,200 acres of common rights on three separate commons. He runs the farm, along with his father, mother and his son.
Father John Joseph is visiting Wales as a guest of Fair Trade Wales as part of the annual celebration of Fairtrade Fortnight.
He grew up on a farm and studied at his local university before moving to Bangalore to complete his law degree. The area he farms is hilly and forested, which brings challenges. John decided to set up the WSSS Organic Farmers Fair Trade Association (WOFFA) in 2008 as a way of organising farming families to gain knowledge and tackle the challenges they’re facing, such as cycles of debt and over-use of chemicals and pesticides.
Speaking about the need for fair prices for farmers, Brian Bowen said: “In 2008 Wales became the first ever “Fair Trade Nation” and the FUW announced its support for Fairtrade at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair in December that year.
“Since then we have been working closely with Fair Trade Wales to highlight the need for farmers all over the world to get paid a fair price so that food security can be achieved across the globe.
“While our produce and farming methods are on the one hand extremely different, there are many similarities between major issues of concern.
“Despite our differences, the principle that a farmer should receive a fair price for his produce transcends international boundaries, and is one that we should all support, whether as individuals or as organisations – and this principle should also extend to procurement by public bodies.”
Talking about the benefits of the Fairtrade movement, Father John Joseph said: “Being part of a Fairtrade organization has helped farmers like myself to create a positive cycle of investment. The communities are also able to invest in better farming practices, training and workshops, which in turn increases production and efficiency. Almost 20% of the members are women.
“Using Fairtrade Premiums WOFFA has been able to grant the financial support for making the compost for farmer groups, which provides higher yields. This makes the farm more productive, and ensures a higher return to the farmer.”
Julian Rosser, National Co-ordinator of Fair Trade Wales commented: “All around the world, farmers are working hard to produce food and other products we consume every day. Wherever they are in the world we believe that they should get a fair deal and a decent price for their products. As the UK considers future trade deals with other countries we will be campaigning to make trade justice a central part of government policy.”