The "Fair Trade" racket
It's good at providing airfares to self-righteous Leftist ignoramuses but not much else
Coffee is one of our guilty pleasures, and not only because of the calories that can be packed into a double latte. Many of us feel guilty that our pleasure is coming at the expense of the Third World coffee farmer, so much so that we gladly pay more for "fair-trade" coffee, which certifies that farmers receive more revenue for their crop.
Today, on World Fair Trade Day, we have something else to feel guilty about. That fair-trade cup of coffee we savour may not only fail to ease the lot of poor farmers, it may actually help to impoverish them, according to a study out recently from Germany's University of Hohenheim.
The study, which followed hundreds of Nicaraguan coffee farmers over a decade, concluded that farmers producing for the fair-trade market "are more often found below the absolute poverty line than conventional producers.
"Over a period of 10 years, our analysis shows that organic and organic-fair trade farmers have become poorer relative to conventional producers."
These findings do not surprise me. I speak as someone who has had contact with various Third World producers in my capacity as president of Green Beanery, a company I founded seven years ago to raise funds for Energy Probe Research Foundation, a federally registered charity that I manage. Green Beanery sells more varieties of coffee, including fair trade and organic coffees, than any other company in Canada, giving me occasion to witness the nature of the fair trade business, and hear first-hand of its impact on small producers that supply us.
The fair-trade business is filled with contradictions.
For starters, it discriminates against the very poorest of the world's coffee farmers, most of whom are African, by requiring them to pay high certification fees. These fees -one of the factors that the German study cites as contributing to the farmers' impoverishment -are especially perverse, given that the majority of Third World farmers are not only too poor to pay the certification fees, they're also too poor to pay for the fertilizers and the pesticides that would disqualify coffee as certified organic.
Their coffee is organic by default, but because the farmers can't provide the fees that certification agencies demand to fly down and check on their operations, the farmers lose out on the premium prices that can be fetched by certified coffee.
To add to the perversity, it's an open secret that the certification process is lax and almost impossible to police, making it little more than a high-priced honour system. Although the certification associations have done their best to tighten flaws in the system, farmers and middlemen who want to get around the system inevitably do, bagging unearned profits. Those who remain scrupulous and follow the onerous and costly regulations -another source of inefficiency the German study notes in its analysis -lose out.
The study, published in the journal Ecological Economics, recommends that policy "move from certification schemes to investments in the farm and business management skills of producers" -in other words, phase out the certification fees.
Most merchants of certified coffees are aware of these contradictions, but most won't be aware of other problems in the certification business. For Third World farmers to qualify as fair-trade producers, and thus obtain higher prices for their coffee, farmers must join co-operatives. In some Third World societies, farmers readily accept the compromises of communal enterprise. In others, they balk. In patriarchal African societies, for example, the small coffee farm is the family business, its management a source of pride to the male head of the household. Joining a co-operative, and being told when and what and how to plant entails loss of dignity.
The contradictions are acknowledged even by many fair-trade merchants, who often refer instead to anecdotal reports of less quantifiable benefits such as better health care or schooling in a village or even, most tangentially, improved habitat for birds or wildlife.
The contradictions extend to consumers of coffee in the West. Several years ago, I received a call from a church in Kingston, inquiring whether Green Beanery could supply it with freshly roasted fair-trade coffee on a weekly basis.
Along the way, the church officer mentioned that the parishioners wanted to do what they could to help poor farmers in the Third World. I replied that I'd be happy to supply the church, but I also advised him that fair-trade coffee would not help the poorest of farmers -these smallholders are actually hurt when Western consumers forsake them for coffee produced by better-off farmers who can afford the certification fees.
I also mentioned that various coffees produced by small farmers in some of the neediest parts of Africa would taste superb while costing the church less, allowing it to spend the difference on some other worthwhile cause.
After a long pause, the church official replied something like: "I still think the parishioners would feel better knowing that they were drinking fair-trade coffee."
Some believe that certified coffee is superior in some way. But it is not always so. The small-scale farms whose local ecologies produce distinctive, niche coffee beans can't operate on a scale that would justify official certification. As the German study notes, "Certified coffees have distinct production and marketing systems with different associated costs than the conventional system."
Neither is certified coffee different at all. In fact, at Green Beanery we have received bags of coffee, some labelled fair trade, some not, grown on the very same farm and identical in every respect. The fair-trade certified farmer himself can't tell which beans will be sold as fair trade and which not -that decision is made by the higher-ups.
Because the fair-trade associations are intent on keeping the price of fair-trade coffee up, they limit the supply of coffee that can be labelled as certified. To the certified farmer's chagrin, most of his fair-trade certified crop could end up being sold as uncertified conventional coffee.
And in this well-intentioned pricefixing game, the fair-trade farmer is the pawn and the joke is on the customer.
Give my job back, says drug expert 'forced out by anti-Christians'
A Christian GP dismissed as a Government drugs adviser over his views on homosexuality has launched a legal bid to win his job back.
Dr Hans-Christian Raabe was removed from the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in February following attacks on him in the Press. Ministers said he was sacked because he failed to disclose an `embarrassing' academic report he co-authored in 2005 that linked homosexuality to paedophilia.
But Dr Raabe, 46, believes the `spineless' Home Office caved in to pressure from liberal campaigners who opposed his firm line on drugs. The German-born doctor has now begun a judicial review against Home Secretary Theresa May and is being represented by leading human rights lawyer James Dingemans QC.
Dr Raabe, whose sacking provoked widespread protests from anti-drug groups, said he was taking the action because there were `increasing attempts' to force Christians out of public life.
Dr Raabe's 2005 report was drawn up with other doctors to brief Canadian politicians who opposed gay marriage.
But he says it is irrelevant to his role providing scientific advice to the Government on drug misuse and it had not occurred to him to mention it when he was interviewed for the unpaid post.
Dr Raabe and his co-authors wrote in the report: `While the majority of homosexuals are not involved in paedophilia, it is of grave concern that there is a disproportionately greater number of homosexuals among paedophiles.'
The Manchester-based GP said the real reason his appointment was revoked was that the Home Office got `cold feet' because of the `witch-hunt' against him. `I am not anti-gay,' he said. `I have been a GP for 19 years and have treated all my patients professionally and equally. 'It is bizarre for the Home Office to suggest I am unable to issue balanced advice on drug issues to gay people.'
Dr Raabe says his dismissal had been illegal and he is asking the High Court to quash it. He said the Home Office had breached natural justice by failing to allow him a chance to challenge the decision by the then Drugs Minister, James Brokenshire, to remove him from the ACMD.
A spokesman for The Christian Institute, which supports the GP, said: `Dr Raabe's comments about homosexuality have nothing to do with his role as a drugs adviser. 'His removal is worryingly like some sort of anti-Christian McCarthyism.'
A Home Office spokesman said: `Dr Raabe's failure to disclose a controversial report that he had co-authored which, among other things, links homosexuality to paedophilia, raised concerns over his credibility to provide balanced advice on drug misuse issues.'
British Public sector staff 'are 43% better off' than private workers - and the pay gap is widening
Public sector workers are 43 per cent better off per year than people with private sector jobs, a report shows. On pay alone, they are more than 20 per cent better off per year than their private sector equivalents in Scotland, the North East, the North West and Wales - and the gap is widening.
But in the South East, public wages are only four per cent higher than those of private sector workers, according to centre-right think-tank Policy Exchange.
The report found the gap between the sectors' pay rose throughout last year, despite unions' complaints that state workers were hard done by.
The findings are even more stark when hourly pay rates are compared. The public sector `premium' - the additional pay a public sector worker receives - is up to 35 per cent when calculated on hourly pay, the report shows. Nationwide, the average hourly premium is 24 per cent.
When gold-plated public sector pensions are taken into account, those on the state payroll are 43 per cent better off.
Even when factors such as the differences in age, experience and qualifications are considered, the hourly pay premium for a public sector worker was 8.8 per cent in December. This almost doubled from 4.3 per cent two years earlier. And the gap was growing despite widespread pay restraint in the public sector.
Ministers have put in place a two-year pay freeze on public sector incomes - sparking claims by unions that state workers are being unfairly punished. But the report shows that it is the private sector staff and firms that have borne the brunt of the recession. Pay shrank for the bottom 30 per cent of private sector workers last year.
Crucially, the researchers found: `Even if the public sector pay freeze were extended beyond April 2013, the public sector pay premium would not be eliminated until 2016. `Including the superior value of public sector pensions, it would not disappear until 2018.'
Only the highest paid workers in the private sector - those earning at least œ47,000 - continue to be paid more than their public sector counterparts, but even there the gap is shrinking.
The report said: `Public sector workers are paid more than private sector workers whether measured annually, by typical wage or raw average. 'For all these measures, the gap between public and private increased between 2009 and 2010.'
Policy Exchange director Neil O'Brien said: `It is unreasonable and unfair to expect private sector workers to make all the sacrifices. `We need a much better-balanced system of public pay, with organisations like the NHS and schools given greater freedom to vary pay so they can attract staff but also get value for the taxpayer.'
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber accused the think tank of `stirring up divisions', saying: `The truth is that both [sectors] are having a terrible time. `Public sector workers are facing a pay freeze, job losses and have seen the value of their pensions cut by 25 per cent. `In the private sector, pay freezes are still common, and public spending cuts are doing just as much damage as they are in the public sector.'
When you see a priest, do you think pedophile?
I can understand that sentiment but let's face it... it's sourced in crap, it's sourced in something that comes straight from the pit, it's sourced in that which desires us to have a perspective keeping us from Truth. The fact is that for every wayward priest, there are many, and I do mean many, who are doing the Lord's work quietly, faithfully and effectively:
I visited a gentleman in the hospice this morning. He is from my neighborhood and a Catholic, but I had never seen him in the church, and by the time I was called, he was already unconscious. I gave him the sacrament of the sick, and I'll probably do his funeral later this week. There is nothing emotionally wonderful about all that. It's a chance to trust purely in God's mercy.
There are other moments of comforting God's people, however, that do warm the heart. Just as I was leaving the hospice, I caught myself asking the nurse if there was anyone there who had no family or friends. She immediately pointed me to 6B. It was the half of room 6 occupied by a Mr. Harris. I took his hand and spoke in a loud voice. His eyes remained closed, his head down. After a few futile attempts to connect with him, I raised my voice even louder and told him he looked wonderful. I told him he was strong. I placed a Yankees cap on his head and laughed at him.
With eyes still closed, and to my great surprise, he squeezed my hand with the grip of a twenty-year-old. A few minutes later he opened his eyes wide, recognized the collar, and asked one thing: "Did you come here, Father, just to see me?" "I did, Mr. Harris, I did." He cried like a baby. More tears of joy. Comforting people in the throes of tragedy is sometimes a downer emotionally, and sometimes it feels good.
That from a Kathryn Jean Lopez interview published a couple of weeks or so ago with Father Jonathan Morris of New York. Read the whole thing, it's good stuff and I think it's represents much of the good stuff being done by priests that we never hear a damned thing about.
I've had the recent pleasure of spending some time outside of church with my own priest, a man who I've written about before, who has helped me in my own walk, who I hope will continue to do so. His love for God and for His Church oozes from every pore and yet in unguarded and personal moments, he comes across as a regular guy with a regular life (as regular as it can get for a guy who's been blind since the age of 6) who experiences the kinds of angsts that we all do and who told me he's been "personally devastated" by the effects of the sex abuse scandals on the Church.
Those one on one times with him have made me remember that this person, this man who stands in persona Christi for me and for all deserves my regular prayers and after spending some time with him, I see that more clearly than ever. Have you prayed for your priest? If not, start. If so, continue. He is at the forefront of a vast spiritual battle and he's leading us in the fight against evil. Because of that leadership, he is also a target. Pray for him. Even now:
by St. Therese of Lisieux
O Jesus, eternal Priest, keep your priests within the shelter of Your Sacred Heart, where none may touch them.
Keep unstained their anointed hands, which daily touch Your Sacred Body.
Keep unsullied their lips, daily purpled with your Precious Blood.
Keep pure and unearthly their hearts, sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood.
Let Your holy love surround them and shield them from the world's contagion.
Bless their labors with abundant fruit and may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and consolation here and in heaven their beautiful and everlasting crown.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.