By Eileen Maybin, Head of Media Relations, Fairtrade Foundation
There are not many good news stories in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated large portions of the Caribbean and North-eastern United States at the end of last month. But one that is exciting for us here at the Foundation is that Worthy Park Cane Farmer Branch Association, a small-scale sugarcane farmers’ organisation, became the first ever Fairtrade certified group in Jamaica this week. This was despite all the problems on the island that left the agricultural sector shattered. Some 11,000 farmers across the island were affected, with around 1,500 hectares of crops totally destroyed.
Although the Worthy Park farmers were badly affected by the hurricane too and had to wait days to get their internet up and running again, they were determined to press ahead and send in their final paperwork for Fairtrade certification.
‘We congratulate the cane farmers at Worthy Park, Jamaica on their Fairtrade certification,’ says Julia Clark, consultant with Tate & Lyle Sugars. ‘Hurricane Sandy has damaged the sugar cane crop and so the Fairtrade Premium that Tate & Lyle Sugars will pay on the Fairtrade sugar we buy from them will help the cane farmers at this difficult time.’
Five other small producer organisations working towards the same deadline for Fairtrade certification were hampered by the hurricane, when the lack of electricity, of transport links with main roads destroyed and of other amenities forced the cancellation of AGMs and the production of other documented evidence. They are now working towards a revised deadline and we look forward to welcoming them to Fairtrade soon.
‘Even before certification, Fairtrade has done so much for us sugarcane farmers, it has brought us all together and forced us to revive our democratic structures. Through Fairtrade we can have a common voice, we came together all the sugarcane farmer associations of Jamaica and supported each other in this adventure,’ says Joe Handal, Chairman of the St Catherine Cane Farmer Branch Association, Spanish Town.
Expressing her delight that the first sugar farmers are now Fairtrade certified, Julie Francoeur, Regional Coordinator for Fairtrade International says: ‘Seeing the enthusiasm and hard work of the farmers all along the way makes it even more of an accomplishment to see them finally reach that milestone! It isn’t just a Fairtrade certificate they are getting, or a promise of Fairtrade Premium; it’s a recognition of all the sweat they’ve put into building themselves up as organisations. To the official venue of Jamaica into the Fairtrade family I say YAH MAN!’
With Jamaican sugar now Fairtrade certificied, this could mean Fairtrade rum from Jamaica in the future!