Monthly Archives: December 2019

Mayor’s Carol Service 2019

Location: All Saints Parish Church, High Wycombe

Date: `15th December 2019

This annual service was led by the Rev Hugh Ellis and included the current Mayor, Cllr Maz Hussain and choirs from Ash Hill Primary School and The Seer Green Singers. A talk was also given by the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Matt Knight, a long time supporter of the Wycombe for Fairtrade group. A collection was taken in support of the Mayor’s charities for this year, Wycombe Homeless Connection and Wycombe Women’s Aid as well as All Saints Church.

The Wycombe for Fairtrade steering group provided the refreshments after this service, using Fairtrade tea, coffee and sugar. Our ‘Fairtrade Town’ banner was displayed and various information leaflets about Fairtrade were available at the refreshment tables.

Meeting with the Costa Rican Ambassador in the UK

Notes by Mike King and Jhon Munoz of the Wycombe for Fairtrade Steering Committee.

We had the great opportunity yesterday to meet the Costa Rican Ambassador in the United Kingdom, HE Mr Rafael Ortiz Fabrega. We discussed our common interest in Fairtrade, other social issues and also environmental challenges, which Costa Rica is a world leader for its policies and accomplishments. It was also a great privilege to show him our current link and work we have developed with the Fairtrade town of Grecia in Costa Rica and the producer group CoopeVictoria R.L. , which the ambassador expressed his interest in support it.

It was an absolutely incredible day in London at the Costa Rican Embassy. We arrived early and were seen straight away. The meeting lasted an amazing 3 hours!

Senor Raphael Fabrega was highly supportive, offering to come to Wycombe to present the Fairtrade Foundation Town Renewal certificate on any of the days we had suggested. He gave us a potted history of Costa Rica, took detailed notes of what Wycombe Fairtrade had achieved over the last two years especially, gave us some political insights in how to spread the Fairtrade word and the future possible linking to other South American towns, and even offered to arrange a visit to Wycombe by the Costa Rican President when he is over in the UK in November 2020 when attending the Climate Change conference in Glasgow!!

He took copies of the meeting minutes during Maria Angela’s visit to Wycombe in October 2019 that we had documented, as well as the joint powerpoint presentation we had delivered with Maria from CoopeVictoria at the Cardiff Fairtrade Towns International Conference which we showed him and he saved to his memory stick. He also took our phone numbers. He was a lovely man, and an astute politician with some amazing ideas and suggestions. He said that the work we had done and were doing was “incredible”.

The Ambassador was also keen for us to promote this Fairtrade North – South Towns model to other Fairtrade Groups in the UK, especially those in Northern UK towns with recent Tory MPs as a means of leverage. The percentage of UK – South American trade only accounts for 2% of the total UK world trade, so there is huge potential scope to increase this two-way trade. 

The Ambassador will be a great and very keen supporter for our cause with a vast amount of contacts and influence. He was also glad to hear that Sheena and I were learning Spanish and would be visiting Costa Rica next year.

His vision and knowledge were vast. The opportunities he listed were immense and the overall message was that what we could still achieve was only limited by our vision. He even said that if we encountered any problems or needed advice to get things implemented, that we only have to contact him.

CoopeVictoria visit High Wycombe October 2019 -Part 3 of 3 – The meeting with Bewleys


  • Louise Whitaker
  • Maria Angela Zamora Chaves (CoopeVictoria)
  • Mike King (Chairman Wycombe For Fairtrade)
  • Jhon Munoz (Latin America Link Wycombe For Fairtrade)
  • Maria Angela Zamora Chaves (CoopeVictoria)

The Discussion

Maria Angela from CoopeVictoria (CV), a Fairtrade Certified organic coffee and sugar producer from Grecia in CostaRica, explained her position and the background of the CV cooperative producer group. It was formed in 2010 as a Social Trade Enterprise Economic Organization. It comprises of around 3000 farmers growing organic Fairtrade coffee and sugar on over 200 plantations.

CV is located in the intermontaine valley where there are fertile soils and a favourable climate. They have just inaugurated a “Meet the Producers/People Tour” as part of the ethical tourism of Costa Rica, to diversify the economy, and earn additional income.

The town of Grecia is located NE of the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose, about one hours’ drive away.

Maria Angela explained the background and history of CoopeVictoria.

Another ecological and sustainable development was their scheme to involve local school children to bring in used vegetable cooking oil from their homes to a collection centre at the school. This was then purified and mixed with diesel fuel to power their tractors and local lorries. CoopeVictoria owned local gas stations and used the fuel to fill up the tractors and trucks. Electricity to power the gas station pumps came from renewable energy in the form of solar panels.

Another aspect of diversification was to intercrop, grow vegetables like tomatoes between the coffee and sugar cane as well as planting local tree species for shading the coffee bushes. Maria Angela goes into schools to give talks on their ethical community solidarity model approach to business which places people before profit. Maria Angela is also a lecturer and academic at the University of Costa Rica teaching business management.

Even with the benefits of Fairtrade and the additional investment from the Fairtrade Premium, some workers are still relatively poor, especially those who are subsistence farmers that rent land which constitutes 50% of the farmers, while the other 50% own their land. 64% of CV’s Fairtrade coffee is exported to Europe with another 30% going to North America.

CoopeVictoria had previously sent a package of their “green” coffee beans for Bewley’s to roast. Dave, the Bewley’s UK Senior Quality Manager “really liked them”. Maria also gave Bewley’s another batch of green beans for further quality analysis as well as accompanying coffee flavour charts and strength gauges. CoopeVictoria also sells its Fairtrade coffee to shops, supermarkets, cafes, as well as to BIDA, a Peruvian distributer. Barista training is run by CV as an essential part of the coffee enterprise.

Coffee production is around 50,000 bags per year. This is down from 100,000 bags 10 years ago due to the effects of climate change, low coffee bean prices, and diversification of crops. Fairtrade organic sugar production exceeded that of coffee for the first time in 2019 with trader prices regulated by the local government. Over 20% of CoopeVictoria coffee is sold and exported under Fairtrade terms and another 10 to 15% sold under Rain Forest Alliance qualification. Women’s rights are a big issue in Central America, and women constitute 33% of the CoopeVictoria workforce, including senior management positions. 7% of the workforce is under 35 years old.

Maria Angela gave more coffee beans and varieties of ground coffee to Louise and promised to send her examples of their publications, videos of their education, community and ecological projects.

History and Business of Bewley’s outlined by Louise Whitaker

Bewley’s is an established Irish Quaker company based in Dublin with offices in High Wycombe (UK and Europe) as well as in North America with offices in Boston and California. Last year Bewley’s did over £50 million of business in Ireland, £50 million turnover in North America, as well as £45 million generated in the UK market. The University contracts in the UK are essential and Bewley’s has an established and loyal market from UK universities. Their UK roasting facility is in Meltham, Yorkshire.

Bewley’s main brands are:-

  • Grumpy Mule
  • Eros
  • Self service machine coffee

65% of the business in the UK is in London and the South East of England.

Coffee drinking patterns have changed over the years with coffee being drunk outside the home, on the move – take away from garages and coffee shops, people are no longer working specifically in an office. Bewley’s focus on high-end coffee with 90% of their coffee sourced from Central and South America. However the world market price for coffee has dropped over the last few years with farmers struggling to meet the costs of production. Louise stated that coffee demand is expected to grow year on year. Farmers, producers and roasters need to work together to grow the market and boost sales.

Bewley’s are aware that like many items, coffee packaging is plastic based and is investing in research to reduce the amount of plastic and aluminium to ensure an air-tight, moisture free, and light filtered packet. They are looking at a hybrid bio-package derived partly from sugar cane stalks and are trialling some prototypes.

Recommendations and medium term proposals

Louise suggested that if the second CoopeVictoria green bean batch was as good as the first, there was the possibility of creating a speciality coffee from CoopeVictoria, by having a small production run of 60/120 kilo sacks of Costa Rican CoopeVictoria coffee roasted in their Yorkshire facility and put into plain sliver and/or black bags as a speciality coffee. Louise had this dream of a speciality coffee. Other potential coffee roasters and wholesalers could be Mercanta, Coaltown, and Ferarri. Louise reported that there was an “Innovative Forum” relating to sustainable supply chains as there was an increasing need for traceability and a “need to know where the coffee originates.”

Louise also suggested that she would encourage the young Deputy Quality Manager of Bewley’s to travel to Costa Rica on holiday after Christmas to experience the CoopeVictoria coffee and sugar plantations first hand as well as take the “Meet the Producers Tour” in this country where eco-tourism is widespread. Maria Angela replied that she would arrange the CoopeVictoria coffee visit and that the Bewley’s manager could stay in her house. This would be self-funded and take place after December 2019 during the coffee harvesting season in Costa Rica. Maria Angela said that half the coffee pickers were Nicaraguan and El Salvador migrant workers, paid a minimum wage according to Fairtrade principles and lived in proper accommodation.

CoopeVictoria had built a “Happy House” for migrant workers children, who did not work but previously did not go to school. CoopeVictoria had paid a teacher and turned a large room into a school. The building itself is composed of recycled plastic bottles.

Notes produced by

Mike King, Chairman Wycombe For Fairtrade

CoopeVictoria visit High Wycombe October 2019 -Part 2 of 3 – Overview of the 3 days

Visit of Maria Angela Zamora Chaves from CoopeVictoria Fairtrade Cooperative, Grecia, Costa Rica to High Wycombe 16th-18th Oct 2019

Invited to High Wycombe by the Mayor of Wycombe (Maz Hussain) and the Deputy Mayor of High Wycombe (Matt Knight), Maria Angela Zamora Chaves was a guest of the Wycombe For Fairtrade Steering Group for 2 days arriving in High Wycombe on Tuesday 15th October 2019.

Maria Angela Zamora Chaves, is a University Business Studies Lecturer as well as being the Coordinator of Social Responsibility and Cooperative Education in CoopeVictoria, a Fairtrade organic coffee and sugar producer group, she was also representing the local Fairtrade Town and Mayor of Grecia in Costa Rica.

First stop on the High Wycombe tour was to take Maria to experience a full English breakfast at the Hills Community Cafe in Micklefield, which also offered a range of Fairtrade coffees and speciality teas. We also met some of the customers including a Spanish speaking couple. Maria was particularly impressed with the community aspect of this inclusive social enterprise cafe and the range of events involving young people and those with mental health problems. Maria was determined to adopt this model and open a similar cafe in Grecia, funded through the Fairtrade Premiums.

Outside Hills Cafe

Later on during the morning of Wednesday 17th October, Jhon and Mike showed Maria around the town and took her to some of the sites like the Parish Church, the Town Hall, Pann Mill watermill, the Rye Park, and the Red Lion in the High Street. We also fitted in a range of Fairtrade shops, supermarkets, independent cafes, the local Oxfam shop, as well as looking around the Fairtrade and ethical clothes and craft shop, Ruby Moon. Maria was very impressed with the range and quantity of Fairtrade products available in Wycombe retailers and cafes generally.

Outside Ruby Moon

After a very nice lunch in the Air Raid Shelter Cafe sampling Grumpy Mule Fairtrade coffee from the Wycombe wholesaler Bewley’s. Maria liked the food as much as the 1940’s decor, ambience and atmosphere, and the entrance to the Air Raid Shelter provided a good photo opportunity for her colleagues back in Grecia.

We took Maria to the Town Hall to meet the Mayor (Maz) and Deputy Mayor (Matt) in the Mayor’s Parlour from 3.00pm to 4.30pm. ( Please See: Mayor and Deputy Mayor meeting document for further details).

Later on that evening, 5 members of the Steering Group met Maria for a social gathering and meal in the Chiltern Taps restaurant. Maria enjoyed tasting local real ales and a typically English meal of fish and chips. It was a very enjoyable and fun evening.

Inside Chiltern Taps

Jhon and Mike took Maria on Thursday 18th November to the Cressex Industrial Estate for a booked appointment with Louise Whitaker, the Group Sustainability Manager from Bewley’s UK. This was a very productive meeting during which Maria Angelaexplained the background of CoopeVictoria and their track record of community funded projects, sustainability, recycling, and engagement with children in formal education. Much of CoopeVictoria’s coffee is organic and 64% exported to European markets, although not directly to the UK at the moment. CoopeVictoria had introduced a “Meeting the Producers” tour for foreign visitors, which Louise thought an excellent idea. Bewley’s were currently testing the quality of their “green” coffee beans with a view to possibly market this as a speciality coffee in the near future.

With Bewley's van

Between 2.00pm and 2.15pm, we managed to fit in a live radio broadcast on John Murphy’s afternoon Wycombe Sound show. Maria Angela largely spoke Spanish which Jhon Munoz translated into English. They and Mike King discussed the concept of Fairtrade generally as well as the links the Wycombe Fairtrade Steering Group have enacted between High Wycombe Council and the Fairtrade town of Grecia in Costa Rica, but also the work we have done linking with the Fairtrade cooperative group CoopeVictoria and in turn acting as a conduit between them and our Fairtrade Flagship employer in Wycombe, Bewley’s UK.

At Wycombe Sound

There were a number of other possibilities for the future linking between Grecia and High Wycombe in terms of business, eco-tourism, history and culture, as well as in secondary and graduate education for language student and two-way teacher exchanges.

Mike King, Chairman Wycombe For Fairtrade

CoopeVictoria visit High Wycombe October 2019 – Part 1 of 3 – Meeting with the Mayor

Maria Angela Zamora Chaves from CoopeVictoria meets with Wycombe Mayor (Maz) and Deputy Mayor (Matt Knight)


In the Mayor’s Parlour, Old Town Hall. Weds 16th October 2019. 3.00 – 4.15pm.


Matt Knight
Maria Angela Zamora Chaves (Fairtrade Cooperative CoopeVictoria and Grecia Town)
Mike King (Wycombe Fairtrade)
Jhon Munoz (Wycombe Fairtrade)

The Discussion

After introductions Maria Angela explained the background and history of the Fairtrade
certified organic coffee and sugar producer cooperative, CoopeVictoria, as well as its
relationship with the Fairtrade town of Grecia in Costa Rica.

Maria Angela saw some similarities with the poorer areas of Grecia in her visit to
Micklefield, a disadvantaged area in Wycombe. She liked the idea of Matt’s Hills Community
Cafe in Micklefield and wanted to try and replicate this in Grecia as one of the CoopeVictoria
social projects, funded by the Fairtrade Premiums, creating a community hub with local
events and informal groups.

Maria Angela and Jhon showed the recorded 2-minute video from the Mayor of Grecia,
Mainor Molina Murillo, explaining that he could not come personally, but sent his warmest
greetings to High Wycombe. Mainor made it very clear in the video that he is very keen on
the idea of a formal relationship of friendship, cooperation, and mutual promotion with the
town of High Wycombe, especially in the areas of tourism and school education exchanges
in the future.

It was explained to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Wycombe that this video would be shown during our joint workshop at the Cardiff International Fair Trade Towns Conference on Saturday 19th October 2019, highlighting Wycombe and Grecia’s ideas of bridging the Global North – Global South Fair Trade Towns gap by forming a link and partnership. This would also benefit the respective towns’ trade, economy and businesses. CoopeVictoria had already sent “green coffee beans” to the local Wycombe Fairtrade Coffee Roaster and Wholesaler for quality testing. Following more trials it is hoped that Bewley’s UK would produce a small batch of speciality CoopeVictoria coffee for the UK market. At present, CoopeVictoria do not have a direct distributer in the UK, although 64% of their exports are to mainland Europe. Other cultural links could also be explored further down the line. School exchanges, especially those involving eco-tourism and respective English and Spanish language classes would be very valuable to both towns’ schools and secondary education.


The results of the meeting were that the Mayors of both High Wycombe and Grecia would like to work together and had formed a firm foundation to make this happen. Best wishes on both sides were extended. A more formal signed agreement of friendship, cooperation, and partnership would follow later on.

Mike King, Chairman Wycombe Fairtrade

December News from our Chairman – Mike King

1. Jen Willetts – eco-artist.

Sheena and I caught up with Jen Willets at the West Wycombe Christmas Market on Weds 4th December 2019. She has now given up her day job to concentrate on her eco-art, cards, crafts, and her own design Indian rain-fed Fairtrade cotton shopping bags. She has since expanded the Fairtrade element to include Fairtrade cotton make-up bags, complete with her own designs. The paper for the cards is sustainably sourced while the see-through wrapping is bio-degradable. She is very keen to still have her details and business listed on our 2020 – 2021 Wycombe Fairtrade Outlets Directory.

2. Fairtrade Churches & Faith Groups “Think Tank” – Sat 7th March 2020 at Christ The Servant King Church in Booker.

I am liaising with Heather Searle, a new lay minister at CSK. I have had confirmation of one definite speaker, Margaret Dykes from Traidcraft. Maranda St.John Nicolle  may be still on holiday in South Africa, but if not, she will attend the event representing Christian Concern for One World. As a back-up or further guest speaker, Fairtrade Foundation have promised to send their Fairtrade Faith Groups Coordinator along to the event. I am waiting for Fairtrade to confirm his or her name. Still sounds good though.

I will deliver the last presentation concerning “Fairtrade and the Impact of Climate Change”. Heather Searle will give a short service to start off the event which begins at 10am and goes on to midday. There will be time for discussion and ideas after each 10-15 minute presentation..At the moment our target audience will be the churches and faith groups in the Wycombe Town wards, but would extend the geographical area depending on interest and take up. I have yet to work out with Heather how we are going to promote this event and how we will register interested parties. The ideal number would be around 40 to 50 people from all these different faith groups in Wycombe. This of course will happen during the last weekend of Fairtrade Fortnight.

3. Presentation of Wycombe Fairtrade Foundation Town Renewal Certificate 

The presentation of Wycombe Fairtrade Foundation Town Renewal Certificate by the Costa Rican Ambassador to the UK is under discussion and ongoing. Jhon and I are going to London to meet Senor Ortiz, the Ambassador, at his request on Tuesday 17th December 2019 at the Costa Rican Embassy. My initial email to the Ambassador was speculative, but the reply was extremely encouraging. Jhon and I plan to discuss some wider measures and ideas that could be beneficial. Hopefully, we can agree on a date and time when Wycombe District Council or the Charter Town Committee are due to meet.

4. Mayor’s Christmas Carol Service.

I hope all those involved with doing Fairtrade teas, coffees, and mince pies at the Mayor’s Christmas Carol concert at the Parish Church on Sunday 15th December have a good time. Sarah Moroz will be bringing the “We are a Fairtrade Town” banner as well as a good supply of the latest 2019 Fairtrade information brochures.