South of Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has given his backing to Fairtrade Fortnight by hosting reception at the Scottish Parliament celebrating Bala Sport.

Bala Sport is a co-operative set up to expand the availability and use of ethically produced Fair Trade sports balls in the UK and beyond.

The balls are used by a number of groups in Dumfries and Galloway from Greystone Rovers to Dunscore Primary school.

Fairtrade Fortnight runs from February 24 – March 8 and includes a range of events across the country.

It is opportunity for campaigners, businesses and schools to show their support for farmers and workers in developing countries and the right for them to receive a fair price for their products.

To mark Fairtrade Fortnight, Colin Smyth, who is Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Fairtrade and the Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Fairtrade Steering Group, hosted an event at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday (February 18) celebrating the work of Glasgow-based Bala Sport, the UK’s sole importer of Fair Trade certified sports balls.

The co-operative works to raise awareness of the issues around Fair Trade sports balls and how they help make a difference in the lives of some of the estimated 40,000 sports balls workers in Sialkot, Pakistan (where around 70 per cent of the world’s hand-stitched balls are made).

Bala’s Fairtrade rugby balls are made in a newly certified Fair Trade factory in Jalandhar across the border in India.

Colin Smyth said: “Fairtrade Fortnight was an excellent opportunity for local groups to promote Fair Trade ethical shopping in general.

“The event I hosted at the Scottish Parliament was great and it was fantastic to hear more about Bala Sport and the amazing work they do.

“By supporting Fair Trade products, local people are making a significant difference in the lives of millions of poorest people across the world.  Fair Trade ensures decent working conditions are provided by ensuring that producers receive a fair price for their products.  However, it is important to remember that buying Fairtrade should not just be for a fortnight but all year round.”

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