It’s Only Fair

Stone at the gate of a Palestinian farm in Palestine that is a meeting place of people from different cultures and religions. MCC photo: Megan Mast

My blogs lean heavily on the thrift theme but I am a Thrift Shopper for Peace and this blog focuses more on this side of my mandate. (You can learn more about that on my About page).

I am a big fan of fair trade products. I try to buy fair trade coffee, spices, chocolate, sugar. I have some clothing that is made by women who recycle saris and other clothing and sell their products in order to earn a living wage. I understand that I pay more for these products so that an artisan or a farmer in another country can live sustainably.

Zatoun Extra Virgin Olive Oil – such a great product!

But lately, I’ve noticed a rise in prices of some of the things that I have always bought at fair trade stores. One example is the Zatoun olive oil that I buy at Ten Thousand Villages. This is an excellent product. I use it in everything except baking (because I don’t like the taste of olives in baking). I used to pay $20 a bottle for this and while I know that’s more than what I’d pay for olive oil elsewhere, I pay it because I know that it supports farmers in Palestine who are living in very challenging circumstances, supporting peace projects, education and peace dialogue between Palestinians and Jews.

When I purchase at Ten Thousand Villages, my money specifically supports their Trees for Life program, which helps farmers (including new and women farmers) by providing them with olive tree saplings to replace those destroyed by the ongoing conflict there.

But the last time I went to buy my Zatoun, I saw that the price had jumped to $25 a bottle. That’s a 25% increase in price! And suddenly I’m thinking to myself  wait a minute, I support fair trade but doesn’t it also have to be fair to me?

I emailed my local Ten Thousand Villages about the price hike and the manager there responded right away. This is the response she received from her head office:

Throughout our 10 year strong partnership with Zatoun, we’ve had no price increases, however, they can no longer absorb their cost increases.  We remain committed to our partnership with Zatoun, and to continuing our donation to the Trees for Life program.  Ten Thousand Villages Canada is responsible for roughly 30% of the annual donations to this vital program.

MCC Photo: Megan Mast

This past spring, several friends from my church traveled to Palestine with Mennonite Central Committee and met with olive farmers who have been farming groves that have been in their families for centuries – literally. They continue to try and sustain their groves despite the random annexation of land, destruction of trees and hardships created by the building of the wall. I heard these stories the same week that I was wrestling with the increased cost in my olive oil. It’s one thing to read about good work on a website but when trusted friends visit a place and meet with farmers first hand, listen to their stories and see with their own eyes the challenges they live with… well, it really brought it home to me.

So, I will pay the increased price. I will do it with joy. Why? Because at the end of the day, I can. I am blessed with work that I love that pays me a very good wage, blessed to live in a country that has the longest undefended border in the world (and regardless of how I feel about their current government, that is still a truly remarkable thing), and blessed to be in a position where shopping fair trade is a choice I can make. I know that this is not true for others but while I am able to make this choice, I will. Because it’s only fair.

What is your favourite fair trade product?

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