The mayor of Nova Scotia's Wolfville, which on Tuesday will become Canada's first fair trade town, says he hopes consumers will be inspired to shop locally and give producers at home and internationally a fair deal.
"As the first fair trade town, we're going into some areas that originally might not have been a strong concept," Bob Stead said Tuesday. "But it's almost impossible to talk about fair trade without in this instance talking about buy local and fair price for local produce as well."
Stead said when the town council was discussing the proposal of becoming a fair trade town, local producers were suffering with the closure of poultry and pork processing plants. He noted that if the town planned on committing itself to supporting farmers in developing countries, they should also back farmers in their own town.
"I think the spin that becomes the local attraction is in fact the extension of the concept of fair trade to buy local and a fair return to the producer locally — that's where the rubber hits the road in terms of the concept," he said. "Other than that, it's the conscience of the community speaking when it says that we will in fact support the notion or the concept of fair trade.
Fair trade products such as coffee or chocolate offer farmers in developing countries higher prices for their goods than they would typically receive on the world commodity markets. Money is directed to social and environmental development and fair labour wages.
Local farmers vulnerable, mayor says
"We'll emphasize [fair trade's principles] locally as it applies to 'buy local' and try to support our local farmers who are sometimes in some jeopardy in terms of market survivability."
Stead said the town has committed to using fair trade coffees, teas, sugars and other products in restaurants and at the Acadia University. Polls with vendors and residents have indicated that people are prepared to pay more in support of fair trade initiatives, Stead said.
'It's the conscience of the community speaking when it says that we will in fact support the notion or the concept of fair trade.' —Bob Stead, mayor of Wolfville, N.S.
The town will be officially certified by TransFair at a ceremony Tuesday evening, where partygoers will be served fair trade coffees and teas and locally grown fruit.
In 2000, the U.K.'s Garstang became the world's first fair trade town. Since then, hundred of towns across Europe have been given official certification. In Canada, support for fair trade products has grown steadily. Canadians bought 21,500 kilograms of fair trade coffee in 1998, for example, and bought 940,000 kilograms in 2004.
Recently, the founder of the Canada's first fair trade coffee co-operative, Just Us, in Grand Pré, N.S., called on Industry Canada to protect the term, saying many manufacturers were stamping their products with phoney certification seals.