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Best Buy Q & A: Just Trading Scotland

We caught up with Tracy Mitchell, Business Manager at our Best Buy company Just Trading Scotland. The company came top in our ethical shopping guide for rice with its True Origin (was Kilombero) brand.

Could you please quickly explain what JTS does and what it aims to do?

Based in Paisley in the West of Scotland, JTS is a not for profit fair trade organisation set up to facilitate the import and distribution of fairly traded products to the UK. We empower and educate producers and consumers, through the fair purchasing and sale of delicious food products from the developing world.

We seek to provide sustainable incomes and wellbeing for small holder farmers, producers and their families.

Tell us about your beginnings, how long has JTS been active and how did it start?

JTS began with a shipment of rice just in time for Fairtrade Fortnight 2009. Since then we have developed partnerships with small producer groups across the world and with supporters across Scotland and the UK.

Your work with food producers is inspiring but it must be challenging - what challenges do you face and how do you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges JTS has faced is lack of working capital to enable us to make pre-payments to our producer partners in line with fair trade principles. Over the years we have raised the required funds in a variety of ways – through loans from Social Lenders, through supporters’ loans from individuals and through fundraising.

Our current business plan sees sales growth as vital to moving JTS towards sustainability but to achieve this we continue to require additional working capital to purchase the stock.  Other issues relate to the complexities of sourcing products from land-locked African countries and all the logistics issues and delays this can bring.

What makes you proud about your mission and vision?

Our vision is for a world where inequalities are overcome, and fair trade unlocks the potential of people and communities. At JTS we see our fundamental role as providing smallholder farmers and producers in developing countries with a market for their produce in the UK – and educating and inspiring UK consumers about the benefits of buying fair trade and Fairtrade certified products.

Partnership is at the core of how we develop our business in line with our mission and vision. It’s those partnerships developed over years that make us so proud.

How would you describe the culture at JTS?

We have a strong team-working ethos with a lack of a blame culture and an inclusive approach to decision making. In this supportive environment, there is a willingness of all team members to take on new tasks with an “I’ll give it a go” attitude.

We aim to foster a culture of collaboration and partnership, treating our stakeholders fairly and building strong relationships across the supply chain.

Do you have anything new on the cards, are there any new projects coming up?

Yes - we have a number of environmental projects planned. We are hoping to move the rice into more sustainable packaging and are currently seeking both expertise and funding to help us do this (see our crowdfunder).

We are also trying to avoid unnecessary packaging by supplying shops that can dispense the rice into customers’ own containers - we are seeing growing interest from zero waste shops for our 25kg sacks (which are paper) and soon we will be able to supply these for brown rice as well as white rice.

Finally, we have a special farmer visit planned for late April/early May. Entitled “walking with farmers - the place of smallholder farmers in a sustainable world”, this journey along the John Muir Way will give supporters the chance to share first-hand in the story of environmental impacts on smallholder farming in Malawi, with the effects of the climate crisis hitting hardest those least responsible and least able to respond.

We would like to thank Tracy for taking the time to talk to Ethical Consumer. For more information about JTS, visit our ethical shopping guide for rice.

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