Fairtrade producers denied visas

A Ugandan coffee producer planning to visit Aberystwyth as part of Fairtrade fortnight was not allowed a visa by the UK border agency, one of several denials of visas for the fortnight across the UK.

Jennipher Wataka had been planning to come on a tour of towns over the fortnight, including Aberystwyth, to talk about the benefits Fairtrade has brought to her community. She was apparently denied a visa due to not being able to supply a marriage certificate or a bank statement, neither of which are readily obtainable in rural Uganda.

Fairtrade Aberystwyth managed to replace her with Juan Louis, a cashew nut farmer from El Salvador who gave a very well-received talk in Aberystwyth Art Centre on Tuesday about the multitude of ways Fairtrade had benefitted his area. One of the products of their co-op is 'Harry's Nuts', packets of nuts featuring the smiling face of comedian Harry Hill. I'm not crazy about him as a comedian but was impressed to hear how he's donated his support to this project for nothing. And the nuts were delicious.

Earlier last month, three Palestinian olive oil producers had also been denied visas. Cathi Pawson, director of the company who invited them is reported as saying,
"We find it very strange that a Palestinian olive farmer, participating in a multi- million EC funded food security project, invited by a UK company, accompanied by a leading British NGO, and hosted by groups across the country, cannot get a visa for Fairtrade Fortnight - especially when Gordon Brown announced he was ’delighted’ about the Fairtrade certification of Palestinian olive oil, and Tony Blair was ’inspired’ by his recent visit to a Fairtrade olive processing factory in Jenin."

Fairtrade is an outstandingly successful campaign to give poor producers in the developing world a fair price for the goods they supply to western markets. The aim of these visitors from poor communities overseas coming over in Fairtrade fortnight is to allow people to hear for themselves how the trade is directly benefitting these places. The UK government needs to recognise the value of this and allow them the flexibilty to make these visits. Lets hope they can do better next year.