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Delicate trade - a manifest

"I believe that being a consumer and being a citizen can be highly compatible. In our everyday life, as consumers, what we do is actually politics. What we choose to buy and to whom we give our money, makes the world go round. This means that, even in a smaller scale, all of us have the power to make the world spin in the way we want it to spin; every time we go to the supermarket, for instance. Let’s not forget Gandhi, who, in his fight against the English, started the swadeshi movement to promote, amongst other things, the production and sale of the Indian cotton, instead of using the cotton imported from the colonial power. It’s up to us to find out how we want our country, and the world, to evolve.
In the past decades, massification has taken over trade. We can find the same shops and the same products all over the place: luxury brands, international chains or never ending franchises. The shopping centres grow bigger, surrounding the cities and suffocating the small scale trade of the urban centres, faking streets with artificial light and promoting the car as a means of transport as if there was no tomorrow. The big distribution spreads its opressing tentacles, taking over market niches. The big companies become bigger and ever more powerful and, above all, more tyrant, bending over the small producers, with no concerns for a self sustainable production. Is this really how we want to live? Is this a way to survive, as individuals and countries?
I believe there is another way.
I believe that a new trade is not only possible but also necessary. And that new trade can change our daily lives, the places where we live, make them richer, more curious, more beautiful, more flavoursome, more emotional, more prosperous and more fair.
A new trade that respects the knowledge and the techniques required to make products, that recognises the added value of handcraft, that respects the small scale production, that values quality over quantity, that appreciates tradition and admires perfection.
A new trade that sees suppliers as partners, with consideration and enthusiasm, that trades fair with them and builds a long lasting and trustworthy relationship with them, from the understanding of the benefits of working together, for a common good.
A new trade that is willing to share with its customers not only a product but also a history, an identity, a different and unique experience that makes our life fuller.
A new trade that wants to be part of its community and, therefore, at every given opportunity, favours the national production, as local as possible, avoiding environmental transportation costs, in its awareness as part of the world.
A new trade that believes in buying less and buying better, choosing the useful and long lasting goods. That knows that the way to value something is to prevent its waste.
A new trade that fights for causes fearlessly, due to its freedom and the belief that the most exciting of obligations is the duty to contribute to make our world a better place – starting with ourselves.
A new trade that dares to renew let down historical centres and reinvent forgotten places, that makes a stand in protecting heritage, in a careful and caring way, proving its profitability.
A new trade that respects its customer, providing an attentive service, offering knowledge and fair prices.
A new trade that believes in the production capacity and in the quality of its nations’ produce, stimulating one and the other, because no country can survive without it – as the current situation proves eloquently.
A new trade that believes in it’s country’s capacity, acknowledging the extraordinary potential of it’s own delicate production. In the case of Portugal, for instance, there’s plenty to choose from, in the industries of ceramics, soap, wine, olive oil, salt, just to name a few of the most obvious ones.
A new trade that does not have the obsession to multiply itself to be everywhere, but prefers to create and contribute to national and international networks, with similar partners, reinforcing in such a way the market niches of a global scale.
A new trade that believes that looking back is also a way of projecting the future and that modernity has got to do with attitude and the way you look at things and not just with what is brand new.
This new trade has been named “delicate trade” by several of us so far. The same that have been able to prove that it is financially viable. With our feet solidly on the ground. And yes, with plenty of idealism. Free as a flock of swallows."

Note: With special thanks to Francisco Palma Dias, poet and inventor of the “Delicate trade” expression, that he practises so well in Companhia das Culturas, tourism with a cause in Castro Marim, Algarve.

Catarina Portas
Diário Económico
August 2011