Yesterday saw Labour MPs flock to Committee Room 11 to celebrate the start of Fairtrade Fortnight.

At an event hosted by the Co-operative Party and chaired by Gareth Thomas MP with the support of Divine Chocolate and the Fairtrade Foundation, Labour MPs welcomed two Fairtrade olive oil producers from Palestine and the Managing Director of Divine Chocolate, Sophi Tranchell, to discuss the impact fair trade makes on producers’ lives. Of course there was the obligatory chocolate tasting as well.

Speaking at the event, the Zaytoun olive oil producers spoke about setting up the company and how they were ‘overwhelmed that people would want to help them’. They told how Fairtrade had transformed not only their lives but their communities, giving them the money to reinvest into their society. Zaytoun now works with 2,500 farmers to ensure a better and sustainable living.

Also speaking at the event, Shadow International Development Minister Tony Cunningham highlighted how the Fairtrade movement shadowed much of Labour’s own policy on responsible capitalism and fairness in tough times.

Tony said: “It was encouraging to see the human face of Fairtrade here today. Not only does Fairtrade give us the power of positive consumerism, it helps the farmers who then invest in their own communities by providing, schools, mobile health clinics. It is a truly excellent scheme”

Speaking at the beginning of Fairtrade Fortnight Shadow International Development Secretary Ivan Lewis said:

“Tackling poverty isn’t just about aid and Government assistance, it is about increasing trade opportunities and ensuring that producers are paid a fair price for their work. Fairtrade Fortnight should remind us all that by making a few small changes to our shopping habits we can make a real difference to producers in the developing world.

Fairtrade businesses are perfect examples of the responsible capitalism which Ed Miliband has consistently championed. The UK should be proud that even in these challenging economic times we are choosing to spend more on fair trade products. It is a testament to our shared values of social justice that last year we spent over £1.32bn on fair trade products, allowing producers in the developing world to invest in their businesses and local communities.

The Government must do more to ensure that its procurement policies support and prioritise fair trade products, as well as spreading best practise for fair trade procurement to local government and other public institutions such as the NHS and prisons service.”

Tony Cunningham and Shadow DEFRA Minister Fiona O’Donnell spoke on video at the busy (and noisy) event.