News Update

Sobeys in Gimli picking up the fair trade scent

Posted April 26th 2016

By Patricia Barrett (Republished from The Express Weekly News, April 14, 2016)

Coffee, chocolate and carpets may spring instantly to mind when one thinks of fair trade products, but flowers also fall under the fair trade banner. And Sobeys in Gimli will be sweetening up its aisles in a few days when flowers from the Global South go on sale.

The grocery chain already offers a number of fair trade products but is taking another step towards helping workers in disadvantaged countries ear a decent living from their labours.

“They’ve [flowers] been around for a while,” said Zack Gross, outreach coordinator for the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation (MCIC) and fair trade advocate for 46 years. “Mostly in port cities, such as Vancouver and Montreal.”

Gross said roses are the most common fair trade flower, which are grown in Kenya and Ecuador. In his bid to bring justice to workers in the Global South, Gross travels the province and the country, meeting with businesses and giving presentations to raise awareness of fair trade and fair trade certified products. Consumers who purchase fair trade products help workers and producers in developing countries obtain fair wages and sustainable incomes.

Among Gross’ network of fair trade advocates is John Forsyth of Winnipeg-based Florists Supply Ltd.

“They were ‘quietly’ promoting it,” said Gross, who won a Lifetime Achievement Award last year from Fairtrade Canada.

“We’ve been trying to identify different florists in town [and around the province] and raise the issue of fair trade,” he said.

Broadway Florists in Winnipeg has come on board. So has a florist in Stonewall and another in Brandon.

Florists Supply Ltd., established in 1935, is a flower importer, wholesaler, and manufacturer. It carries fresh flowers, floral supplies, permanent botanicals and giftware, and has offices in Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

“We tried to start a fair trade program back in 2006 or [2007],” said Forsyth,”…and we could not get it off the ground.”

In 2014, a wholesaler in B.C. who was ready to retire asked Forsyth to take up the fair trade program again. Forsyth said it is “starting to pick up momentum.”

Florists Supply buys flowers from farms in North America and Europe, as well as from farms in countries such as Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Peru, Kenya, South Africa and Thailand.

“I have been traveling to farms in South America for 17 years,” he said, “and most of the farms already had a strong social component that … always impressed me.” Forsyth said some of those social initiatives take the form of health care and funding for housing projects.

“We liked the impact those projects would have on not just the workers but the community. The farms supporting fair trade really, truly care about the workers and champion the projects proudly.”

Consumers who buy fair trade flowers can have a great impact on those living in poorer countries.

“If a person purchasing flowers in Gimli can directly influence if a child goes to school or a mother has a pap smear test that could save her life,” said Forsyth, “it is hard not to want to support that.”

Helping reduce workers’ health risks in the production of flowers is another perk to buying fair trade. There is, environmentally speaking, a difference between “regular” flowers and fair trade flowers.

“There are issues of health [for] people working with them,” said Gross, referring to harmful chemicals used in some flower production sites.

Sobeys will be displaying a number of fair trade items next to the flowers to “make a bigger splash” and to “see what kind of response they get,” he said.

As far as price goes, there is not much difference between fair trade flowers and regular flowers, depending on volume.

“The Fresh Carrot (in Gimli) brought in a supply of fair trade flowers a few years ago,” said Gross. “That brings the price down.”

Sobeys’ willingness to give fair trade flowers a run may be down to Gross’ gentle and persuasive demeanour. The advocate has convinced a number of local businesses and Gimli High School to join the fair trade movement and help promote social responsibility.

“The corporate world is catching on,” said Gross.

Consumers in wealthy countries such as Canada are becoming aware of who’s benefitting at the expense of workers in poorer countries.

“Why are we on this planet if it’s to do well at other people’s expense?” said Gross.

Fair trade flowers go on sale at Sobeys starting April 18 and will be, depending on demand, available until Mother’s Day.

See the original article in The Express Weekly News HERE

« Gimli High School Named Canada’s 5th Fair Trade School

Producers in Manitoba and Peru share common struggles »

This program was made possible with financial support of the Government of Manitoba,
and was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada (GAC)

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