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    Fairtrade investigates Kenyan rose supplier
    Britain’s Fairtrade Foundation is investigating a large Kenyan supplier of roses to J Sainsbury and the Co-op after allegations about working practices at the company.
    The charity, which was set up to prevent exploitation of growers and foster better working conditions, said it would conduct a full inspection of Oserian, a farm near Lake Naivasha which is certified by Fairtrade.

    The Mail on Sunday revealed that employees at Oserian were working in stifling greenhouses and paid about £96 a month. This is below Fairtrade’s target of £162 a month “living wage” for the region. However, it is thought to be higher than average wages in the area.

    Products that are Fairtrade-certified receive a minimum price from supermarkets and workers receive a premium that is meant to be invested in projects to improve their living conditions. For shoppers looking to make ethical purchases, Fairtrade products are easily identified by the organisation’s distinctive logo.

    The Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union said that some of the lowest-paid workers at Oserian were starting on a salary of about £80 a month, or £96 when a housing allowance was included. As flower-pickers work about 46 hours a week typically it could mean that some are earning only 48p an hour. A bunch of Fairtrade roses at Sainsbury’s cost £6.50 on the grocer’s website yesterday.

    Oserian, which could not be reached for comment yesterday, told The Mail on Sunday that its seasonal workers received the basic pay of £80 a month; however, permanent workers received a higher basic wage equivalent to £117 a month and at least 24 days’ paid holiday. It said that most employees lived in free accommodation with benefits including electricity, healthcare, schooling and transport that brought the value of a permanent worker’s pay to about £175 a month, which was above the living wage.

    Michael Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, said that all of Oserian’s workers received more than Kenya’s minimum wage and that it was working towards a living wage but was “not there yet”. He added: “Fairtrade takes all allegations of exploitative working conditions very seriously . . . we are currently in the process of investigating to check that our standards for Fairtrade certification on wages and working conditions are being met, and will make our findings public.”

    Sainbury’s said that it was investigating and the Co-op said it was pleased by Fairtrade’s immediate promise to investigate.

    Photo credit: Public Domain Pictures, CC0 Public Domain.

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