FAIRTRADE fortnight kicked off nationally on February 24 and is in full swing in Thornbury.

The annual two-week campaign, which runs until March 9 this year, is dedicated to highlighting the importance and impact of buying Fairtrade-labelled products, particularly coffee and bananas.

Thornbury had a guest speaker from Nicaragua at its Fairtrade Fair on Saturday, March 1.

Coffee producer Margarita del Carmen Aráuz Espinoza, 34, from Jinotega in central Nicaragua was welcomed by Mayor Pam Shipp and introduced to the area by Steve Webb MP.

She spoke through local interpreters to locals in a packed function room at the Swan Inn on High Street from 10am until 12pm.

She explained the benefits to her community of selling their coffee beans with Fairtrade certification.

Margarita said: “The minimum price supports our coffee production at a time of rapidly falling prices. It guarantees that we do not go out of business.

“Fairtrade money helps build schools, give children study packs, uniforms and transport for children to get to school.”

Margarita encouraged everyone to buy more Fairtrade products.

She said up to 40 per cent of coffee plants have had to be destroyed recently because of a plant disease called “rust” affecting them. Her family had 8,000 plants 3,800 had to be destroyed. It takes four years for a new plant to produce any fruit.

A plaque was presented to Christian Aid as a thank you for their support and solidarity. It is now in the Christian Aid South Regional office in Thornbury.

The Fairtrade Fortnight event was jointly arranged by South Gloucestershire Fairtrade Steering Group together with Thornbury and District Make Poverty History group and supported by The Co-op store in Thornbury who provided Fairtrade chocolate, flapjacks and wine samples.

Their Fairtrade bananas helped promote this year’s Stick with Foncho campaign which calls for all bananas to become Fairtrade. Other Fairtrade stallholders there on the day were Traidcraft, Shared Interest, Oxfam and Zaytoun.

Speaking after the event Marian Stephens from Thornbury and District Make Poverty History group said: “We were delighted that so many people from Thornbury and the local area came along to find out more about Fairtrade and to buy the Fairtrade marked food and crafts.

“It was a good opportunity for local organisations to get together to work for Fairtrade.

“We were highly impressed by Margarita’s talk that fact that a Fairtrade income provided so much for her community.”