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bronterre
25-04-14, 07:27
I'm just starting to look at where to get fresh beans having upgraded to what to many forumites would be an absolutely basic entry-level set-up. I hadn't really considered that there would be an issue getting Fairtrade beans; if Sainsbury's own brand can be Fairtrade by default, surely that particular battle had been won? But when I looked at my local roasters, I find that: one says it pays a higher price than the Fairtrade minimum, which is good, but says nothing about the Fairtrade premium or their standards for estate workers; a second actively opposes Fairtrade, putting forward a rationale that, to be charitable, shows a touching faith in free markets' ability to improve the welfare of poor agricultural workers; a third (slightly less local) puts what I consider to be deliberately deceitful copy on its website to fool consumers that what they're purchasing is Fairtrade when it's not. The position is the same for some of the well-regarded mail-order roasters I've looked at. So the question is, does anyone know of somewhere that sells mail-order good, fresh beans that are also Fairtrade? Or can show that it really duplicates the standards that Fairtrade stipulates?

jeebsy
25-04-14, 07:47
A lot of roasters buy direct from the farm which guarantees them better prices than fair trade. Can't remember the scheme name

Daren
25-04-14, 07:53
To follow up on Jeebsy post - you might find this article interesting (Hasbeans take on fairtrade)

http://www.hasbean.co.uk/blogs/articles/5952501-fair-trade-for-who-a-counter-view-to-the-fair-trade-debate

To quote Hasbeans stance (which I agree with);

"Just because it doesn’t say “fair trade,” doesn’t mean it’s not fairly traded. It’s always worth asking your roaster their standpoint on price, their thoughts on sustainability and their relationship with the importers and farmers. Don’t be fooled into believing that the only fair deals are done under the “Fairtrade” label. If you really want to take an interest in your coffee, make sure that the price you are paying represents a fair deal for all involved and helps to create a high quality, sustainable product."

aaronb
25-04-14, 07:56
I'm just starting to look at where to get fresh beans having upgraded to what to many forumites would be an absolutely basic entry-level set-up. I hadn't really considered that there would be an issue getting Fairtrade beans; if Sainsbury's own brand can be Fairtrade by default, surely that particular battle had been won? But when I looked at my local roasters, I find that: one says it pays a higher price than the Fairtrade minimum, which is good, but says nothing about the Fairtrade premium or their standards for estate workers; a second actively opposes Fairtrade, putting forward a rationale that, to be charitable, shows a touching faith in free markets' ability to improve the welfare of poor agricultural workers; a third (slightly less local) puts what I consider to be deliberately deceitful copy on its website to fool consumers that what they're purchasing is Fairtrade when it's not. The position is the same for some of the well-regarded mail-order roasters I've looked at. So the question is, does anyone know of somewhere that sells mail-order good, fresh beans that are also Fairtrade? Or can show that it really duplicates the standards that Fairtrade stipulates?

There has been studies into fairtrade before where really the standards were only very slightly higher than normal, i cant rememebr the article source off the top of my head though. You have to jump through a few hoops to get accredited too I believe, easy for Sainsburys but harder for small operations.

I buy alot of my beans from HasBean, they do a lot of buying direct from the farm and Steve (the owner) goes out to visit the farmers and cement relationships. More money goes back to the farm, and long term relationships can be forged. I'm sure if you email HasBean they will go into more detail.

Im sure other roasters are similar.

Charliej
26-04-14, 06:07
The key phrase is "relationship coffee" which as others have said is where the roasters have built up a relationship with the farm owners and buy direct from them, bypassing all the brokers and other middle men who still want a cut under the Fair Trade scheme and thus the farmers and then their workers get all of the usually higher price paid for the coffee as well. If I recall properly there was a program on channel 4 looking at the Fairtrade scheme as it works in Ghana with chocolate growers and they only got a tiny tiny bit more than the none fairtrade farmers.

I would generally says that if you look at the leading roasters recommended by the forum that most of them don't subscribe the Fairtrade scheme but because of the way they work the farmers get a much better deal.

bronterre
26-04-14, 07:08
Dear all, thanks for the replies, I've been at work today so haven't had time to reply till today. I also thought I'd better find out a bit more about Fairtrade coffee. I've read the Hasbean blog (thanks Daren), and looked up Fairtrade's coffee policy. I don't really buy some of the Hb criticisms, about the money spent on marketing and so on, at least in principle, since it's at least partly that which has brought their products from the fringe into the mainstream. As to the Channel 4 documentary I haven't seen it, but I have had a look some of the criticism of FT and the response to it on the web, which confirms, with a bit more information, that FT is an imperfect organisation that is not the whole answer to poverty etc of agricultural commodity producers, but which has made a genuine, positive difference. (BTW, there's a strand of sceptical, debunking Channel 4 documentaries connected with a strange little organisation called Spiked, which IMO it pays to be quite sceptical of).

That said there's an issue with FT coffee that I wasn't aware of: because they want to support small producers, who they say produce 70% of the world's coffee, they won't accredit estate owners who treat their workers well as they do with other products. As they say, they realise that this leaves landless farm labourers, some of the most vulnerable people in the world economy, unprotected by the scheme. I sort of understand their reasons, but it seems to me to be a real shame. Especially, since with all the roasters who talk about their "relationship coffees", which may well have real benefits for the quality of the beans, the relationship seems to be exclusively with the estate owner, and the estate labourers disappear. Now it may be that fantastic things are happening for these workers in terms of their wages and owner-funded welfare and education schemes; if so I'd love to hear about them. But I can see that dealing with estates rather than small producers, even if they're in co-ops, is likely to make it easier for roasters to ensure quality control, and I imagine that's their motivation rather than squeezing a few more pence per kilo out of the farm labourers.

aaronb
26-04-14, 07:16
Dear all, thanks for the replies, I've been at work today so haven't had time to reply till today. I also thought I'd better find out a bit more about Fairtrade coffee. I've read the Hasbean blog (thanks Daren), and looked up Fairtrade's coffee policy. I don't really buy some of the Hb criticisms, about the money spent on marketing and so on, at least in principle, since it's at least partly that which has brought their products from the fringe into the mainstream. As to the Channel 4 documentary I haven't seen it, but I have had a look some of the criticism of FT and the response to it on the web, which confirms, with a bit more information, that FT is an imperfect organisation that is not the whole answer to poverty etc of agricultural commodity producers, but which has made a genuine, positive difference. (BTW, there's a strand of sceptical, debunking Channel 4 documentaries connected with a strange little organisation called Spiked, which IMO it pays to be quite sceptical of).

That said there's an issue with FT coffee that I wasn't aware of: because they want to support small producers, who they say produce 70% of the world's coffee, they won't accredit estate owners who treat their workers well as they do with other products. As they say, they realise that this leaves landless farm labourers, some of the most vulnerable people in the world economy, unprotected by the scheme. I sort of understand their reasons, but it seems to me to be a real shame. Especially, since with all the roasters who talk about their "relationship coffees", which may well have real benefits for the quality of the beans, the relationship seems to be exclusively with the estate owner, and the estate labourers disappear. Now it may be that fantastic things are happening for these workers in terms of their wages and owner-funded welfare and education schemes; if so I'd love to hear about them. But I can see that dealing with estates rather than small producers, even if they're in co-ops, is likely to make it easier for roasters to ensure quality control, and I imagine that's their motivation rather than squeezing a few more pence per kilo out of the farm labourers.

I think in general the consumer is just either (a) not interested or (b) poorly informed and just think 'Fair Trade is better, I'm doing my bit for the world' when in reality there is very little difference.

HasBean regularly go into details about the farm on their weekly video blog 'In My Mug', if you watch the recent episode on the Tanzania natural they talk about how the 2 local farms have houses for the farmers, various schools, an ambulance etc all available to the workers and their pay is fixed at 25% above minimum wage.

Many other roasters will know similar details too I'm sure, just an example that came to mind.

Charliej
26-04-14, 09:32
Bronterre to be blunt you are really really overthinking this, many of the popular roasters on here are small businesses themselves who enter into a relationship with both individual farms, estates and co-operatives to the mutual benefit of ALL people included in the relationship which results in real benefits for the workers in terms of schools for the children, decent housing and better wages, and the effect of this for the roaster is to end up with a higher quality bean as the farms can then afford to employ agronomists to help them, build washing/processing stations on the farms rather have everything sent to a central facility and also all the benefits help to create a workforce that cares about their product.

Any large umbrella organisation with a high profile such as FairTrade have huge associated costs with running such a scheme and every £1 spent on this is a £1 not going into the producers hands. If you check the websites of roasters such as Hasbean, Origin, Union Hand Roasted and many more you will find videos of trips to the coffee producers , news articles etc that show the benefits to everyone on the farms. After all we are talking about micro roasters not global multinationals and no sinister agendas or conspiracies.

DavecUK
26-04-14, 09:54
If it helps, I tend to avoid the fairtraded coffees as they are often not as good. I do however, prefer the Rainforest Alliance and Utz Kapeh certifications. These usually give far better coffee and I personally think Utz Kapeh does a better job than fair trade. I looked into all this years ago as I was very interested in it and the welfare of farmers.....as you can see, with the Gems of Araku post I made.

It's also true as someone has said, just because coffee is not fairtrade does not mean it isn't very good for the farmers. not only do roasters have farmer relationships, but some of the big importers have relationships with farmers that go well beyond anything you might imagine. However, if it's not something you can verify. Rainforest Alliance and Utz Kapeh certification are always good things to look for....especially as many of the conditions that have to be met can directly improve the quality of the coffee. many of the bulk buy Bella Barista coffees are RA or Utz kapeh coffees as I choose them wherever possible.

TheDude
27-04-14, 07:15
Check this video about Fairtrade- vs Specialty-Coffee
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/31/fair-trade-coffee_n_4523577.html

DavecUK
27-04-14, 09:35
Check this video about Fairtrade- vs Specialty-Coffee

Ah yes....and worst still is when you sit down and think about what fair trade REALLY means. Of course sometimes there are some good FT coffees. There is a particular Fairtrade Csta Rican I get when it's available that's always been pretty good. However in the spirit of Videos. Also Utz coffee is graded as well.

https://www.utzcertified.org/en/aboututzcertified/whatisutzcertified

http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/multimedia/alexm-timothyscoffee

The fair trade bubble burst for me a long time ago.

bronterre
27-04-14, 11:13
Thanks again for your responses. Charliej, I've no problem with you being blunt; I just disagree that I'm "overthinking" the issue. A truer criticism is that I haven't thought (or researched) enough about it until this point. Your post makes an assumption that just can't be assumed; that agreements and relationships between two small businesspeople automatically mean good, or at least the best possible, conditions for agricultural workers. I agree that this is possible, if at least one of the parties has this as a priority, but it isn't automatic; if not specifically addressed, the markets in coffee and labour can produce terrible conditions for labourers, without the need for any nefarious conspiracy on anyone's part. This, after all, is what led to the impetus for Fair Trade, in its various incarnations, in the first place.

TheDude, I've watched the video you link to; it refutes an argument that I'm not making, that Fair Trade necessarily means better quality beans. And DavecUK, my belated research about FT and its alternatives has failed to convince me that either UTZ or the Rainforest Alliance are anything other than corporate strategies to counter the challenge of FT by doing the least possible they can get away with. This (http://www.coopcoffees.com/all_news/media/articles/making-sense-of-certification-2014-fair-trade-direct-trade-rainforest-alliance-utz-whole-trade-and-organic/)is the most balanced and informative single article I've found, though it's a bit brief and a few years old, it's well-referenced. And I'm quite willing to think about what fair trade really means; I don't accept, if that's what you're suggesting, that what the market decides is the only true measure of fairness.

More positively, I'm really glad to hear from aaronb about the good things reported by Hasbean, and that Charliej suggests is more widespread. I can hardly say that Hasbean's efforts were secret if they were on their blog. However, I wasn't able to find them on the main bits of Hasbean's or other popular roasters' websites where they talk about their ethical approach. The roasters local to me that I've looked at more closely don't have anything to that effect. I've asked the most promising of them via their Facebook page what their approach is regarding the employees of their growers and am waiting for a response. Finally, I think it's fair to say that it's difficult to imagine that roasters would be quite as concerned about their ethical image if it hadn't been for the challenge of Fair Trade.

Anyway, again, genuine thanks for your responses; they've stimulated me to research an area, at an elementary level, which I really should have thought more about before.

aaronb
27-04-14, 11:32
bronterre, check this link which gives the info I mentioned earlier

http://www.hasbean.co.uk/products/tanzania-burka-block-c-bourbon-n39-natural

I personally feel a lot of fair trade consumers are quite ignorant and just buy coffee on the basis the logo is on the packet and assume that it is better for the producer, fair play to you for investigating further and making informed choices.

There are people in the Specialty Coffee world who strongly believe that the cost of a cup of coffee should rise by quite a bit, and that more profits should be going to the roasters, the farmers and the mills etc. Whilst the intentions are good (who could begrudge workers being paid fairly?) asking for an extra £1 in the coffee shop is never going to work realistically. It's nice to know that certain importers and roasters do work closely with farms.

oracleoftruth
27-04-14, 06:32
The issue is not the price it's where the money goes. Fairtrade means you can be sure the extra money goes to the people who Work the coffee plantations rather than further up the chain. Speciality coffee definitely means a higher price but not always a guarantee that the lowest paid get it. The "farmer" may get paid more but do they pay their workers more?
Do they spend money developing shared community assets?
I prefer to Support fairtrade with commodity products and with speciality coffee I support cooperatives when I can.
Fairtrade foundation only Support cooperatives as they can be more sure the premium gets shared. I agree with them and make the same choice when buying high end speciality coffee where a low price for the beans is less of an issue.

Fairtrade is about the price paid and where the money goes; it has nothing to do with the quality of the coffee.
The majority of consumers need a simple logo to make ethical choices because most people won't bother otherwise. Fairtrade has saved lives and built communities by preventing the market from smashing them. That's not a bad thing and I agree it isn't the only thing; more is needed.

DavecUK
27-04-14, 08:28
TheDude, I've watched the video you link to; it refutes an argument that I'm not making, that Fair Trade necessarily means better quality beans. And DavecUK, my belated research about FT and its alternatives has failed to convince me that either UTZ or the Rainforest Alliance are anything other than corporate strategies to counter the challenge of FT by doing the least possible they can get away with. This (http://www.coopcoffees.com/all_news/media/articles/making-sense-of-certification-2014-fair-trade-direct-trade-rainforest-alliance-utz-whole-trade-and-organic/)is the most balanced and informative single article I've found, though it's a bit brief and a few years old, it's well-referenced. And I'm quite willing to think about what fair trade really means; I don't accept, if that's what you're suggesting, that what the market decides is the only true measure of fairness.

Look if your that concerned, just do what I do.

Each Christmas instead of having a Christmas present from my wife...the money gets donated to a worthy 3rd world charity or a home charity for kids cancer etc..Sometimes it's a Charity like Coffee Kids. So each year £200-300 goes to a charity and they get something and I forego a Christmas present....it's worked well for me for the last 10 years or so.

Then your problem is solved, becuase it's much better than any of the corporate schemes or even what the individual roasters do.

bronterre
28-04-14, 07:47
Oracleoftruth, thanks for your post, as you'll have seen I'm very broadly in sympathy with what you say. Do you have any mail-order beans that you'd particularly recommend?

Charliej
28-04-14, 11:47
OK the bottom line is that the roasters generally recommended on here participate in schemes or Direct Trade that are far more beneficial than ones run by a very large faceless bureaucracy and if you insist on buying ones labelled as FairTrade only then you are lowering the quality of your coffee and missing out on some amazing coffees.

I don't know why you can't find any details of how the micro roasters operate as it's plainly obvious on the ones I checked out yesterday, go take a look at the Coffee Compass website then scroll right down on the homepage, look at Origin Coffee and their videos, have a look at Rave and at Union Hand Roasted and the info is there plainly for anyone to see, if you aren't blinkered by things that carry the FairTrade logo.

The FairTrade logo no more guarantees the conditions of the workers than anything else does as the money gets paid to someone in country who then pays the workers after their cut. Open your mind a little, these micro roasters aren't just talking up what they do or lying about how their Direct Trade approach is far more beneficial. You seem to forget that unfortunately Coffee is mainly grown in countries that for reasons beyond the remit of this forum are notoriously corrupt and in some case war torn, and when you started engaging with officials on behalf of a scheme such as FairTrade you have to start dealing with locals that want a bribe, this is more or less normal in these countries and that money comes out of the pot that should pay the growers and their staff. If you pay the farmer directly this doesn't happen, well at least not as often as it otherwise would.

bronterre
29-04-14, 11:04
Blimey, Charliej, what are you really angry about. I haven't claimed to have conducted an exhaustive survey of roasters; I hadn't looked at Union Hand Roasted and I agree there's plenty on their site, and as you say there's a summary on the Coffee Compass homepage; Origin made an assertion about social standards without going into detail, and I couldn't see anything obvious on Rave. Not to say that all these companies don't have equally high standards on this issue, it's just that some make it more obvious than others. I've covered this point in my exchange with aaronb about Hasbean, and will return to it in just a second when I report my conversation with my local roaster, Small Batch.

Now on all this rhetoric about faceless bureaucracies and so on. I guess that FT has some characteristics that would classify it as a bureaucracy, being rule-bound for example, just like other activities that assist the coffee trade, such as shipping insurance. It would be quite worrying to have a live-in-the-moment, spontaneous shipping insurer, and I think the same applies to certification; setting out transparent rules and sticking to them gives a degree of certainty to the customer and everyone else. I've acknowledged earlier that there are problems with FT's particular approach to coffee-growing, in that they exclude estates employing labourers, and I also hear the complaint that they're not sufficiently attuned to quality

Now, as I've indicated before, I'm not seeking perfection, and I'm prepared to listen to roasters' claims about the social standards they require, but this approach isn't problem free either. There's the question of credibility and conflict of interest. There are well-documented concerns about the big companies' responses to FT, Utz and Rainforest Alliance, to the effect that they're exercises in greenwashing and whatever the equivalent word is for specious claims about social standards; now I'm a fairly trusting person, but I can't ignore this history when I'm looking at the coffee industry. It would be really helpful to small roasters if there was a credible yet sophisticated third-party certifying organisation that could reassure customers that their claims were genuine. Imagine a scenario: a roaster and farm-owner enter into an agreement which includes social standards; the farmer then comes under pressure due to some external such as poor weather, and is tempted to reduce or abandon those social guarantees. Would a small roaster have the resources to find out about this and confront it? Maybe, maybe not. These are complicated issues. It would be pleasant to be able to raise them without being lectured about what I allegedly seem to be forgetting and told to open my mind. But I guess people can read the thread and decide how open-minded we're all being. Finally, I haven't come across claims that FT is endemically corrupt, but I've just started looking at the issue, so if you have anything to substantiate the allegation, let's hear about it.

DavecUK, frankly you're just a nicer person than me; I don't think I'm that keen on foregoing a Christmas present from my wife. How else am I going to get hold of all the coffee kit that I suddenly discover I need? A slightly broader point is that basic standards for commodity producers probably need a more structural answer than individual acts of generosity, however worthwhile and welcome they are.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, I was waiting for an answer to queries on Facebook about all this from Small Batch, who are local to me. They've given me a lot more detail than was available on the website about conditions and facilities for estate workers, so I'm going to bestow the highly-prized gift of my custom on them (I don't think they'll be calling their growers to ask them to up production). They also agreed that it might be a good idea to make the info I'd elicited a bit more prominent when they re-design their website shortly, though I suppose we'll have to see what makes the final cut. All in all, a very productive and civil exchange.

Charliej
29-04-14, 12:21
I.m not angry I'm exasperated with you, people other than myself have laid it out for you, yet you still seem to assume that FairTrade is the gold standard when it most surely isn't, if you want to discover how much of a joke it really is then simply look at the requirements for a town or city in the UK to be able to call itself a FairTrade town.

You always seem to be implying that the the small roasters have an agenda and are all openly lying about what they do or do not do, they have no reason for this, they are , in the scheme of things, very small quality focused businesses , not the huge businesses you seem to think they are ,that choose to buy directly from coffee growers, usually paying a higher premium to the growers than FairTrade do, they develop direct relationships with growers over a period of years. One thing you seem to not even consider is that raising the welfare standards of the all concerned in the growers employ enables them to focus more on quality than quantity, gives the workers better housing, healthcare, build schools for the children, pay higher wages etc etc, all this instils a pride in the quality of the product throughout the chain.

What really sums you and your attitude up is this quote "so I'm going to bestow the highly-prized gift of my custom on them" it shows a degree of arrogance that is staggering and beggars belief as you basically assume that most of them at worst lie and at best over exaggerate their claims. Well the news for you is this would constitute false advertising which is illegal. The big businesses involved in coffee such as Nestle, makers of Nescafe have done huge amounts of damage to people and the environment over the years but these aren't the quality focused micro roasters we are talking about.

Mrboots2u
29-04-14, 12:27
Charlie i think brontere was clearly being sarcastic and poking fun at himself with the comment you mention, please take a step back and
agree to disagree in a civil, non personal manner .

bronterre
29-04-14, 06:52
Mrboots2u thank you for (helpfully) pointing out the obvious. I'll just say that if anyone new to this thread assumes from Charlie's last post that I've been slandering small roasters right and left and think Fairtrade is absolutely perfect, could they please look at my previous post, and, if they can be bothered, the thread as a whole.

oracleoftruth
30-04-14, 01:10
Hello again. I tend to use my local Foundry Roasters in sheffield. They have good coffee and I trust them. They usually deal with cooperatives which I favour for making sure money is distributed.
For fairtrade i've not found a high quality roaster and I'd be interested.
I'd be interested in putting charlie's points to someone from the fairtrade foundation. I'm sure they're more than able to answer for themselves.
The key point that speciality coffee command a much higher price and makes fairtrade obsolete is only partly true. As I said it's also where the money goes and as charlie says we can't know where it goes when you pay a farmer or more likely a dealer. Unless that is you have resources to monitor the situation. And there's the point of the fairtrade foundation.
Building relationships with farms and estates is great but places the onus on the small coffee roaster to be checking where the money goes and making sure bribes aren't happening. It can be a big ask.

Perhaps there is a need for a way for fairtrade foundation to Work with speciality coffee buyers in a better way and to ensure their charges are more obviously worthwhile and affordable.
Can't fault their intentions though.

Glenn
03-05-14, 04:11
Here is an article which sheds more light on the Fairtrade debate
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/businessclub/sales/10765929/Union-Roasted-tells-Fairtrade-to-wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee.html

bronterre
04-05-14, 10:29
Hi Glen, I read this article during my hurried search for material earlier in this thread, but thanks anyway for taking the trouble to post it. My thoughts on it are the same as I've tried to outline in earlier posts: I accept that there are problems with Fairtrade for well-intentioned speciality importers/roasters, and that these may be insuperable within the current Fairtrade rules for coffee. I think "flexibility" is a double-edged sword: if things are going well it could work to everyone's benefit, but if pressures develop on any component of the supply chain, those pressures could simply be passed on to the least powerful constituency, the farm workers, unless there is external verification. That's the case even if everyone in the chain, certainly the roasters, have the best intentions. Finally, it would be good if roasters acknowledged that without Fairtrade in the market, standards for coffee workers would be a much less prominent issue. As I say, this is substantially just restating what I've said earlier.

ShortShots
07-05-14, 09:11
You may enjoy the blog CRS Coffeelands, its focus is largely on improving pay, standards of living etc for the farmer.

http://coffeelands.crs.org/

bronterre
07-05-14, 09:39
ShortShots, just read the first post on the Coffeelands blog, and it's already clear that this is a fabulous resource for anyone interested these things. Thanks for the tip.

ShortShots
07-05-14, 10:36
Not a problem, I spend a large part of my days reading coffee blogs :)

aaronb
14-05-14, 12:30
I'm loathe to bump this thread, but the following blog post I just read was really on point in the whole speciality vs fair trade debate:

http://sprobeforebros.tumblr.com/post/85228515421/bourbon-hoffmann-and-the-myths-of-the-specialty

bronterre
14-05-14, 02:42
Thanks, aaronb. I can see what you mean about not wanting to bump the thread, but, for me anyway, it's been mostly informative and stimulating. I liked the post you linked to (haven't had time to watch the film that the poster links to); I don't necessarily agree with all his conclusions so far as I understand them, but he really highlights effectively some of the problems in getting coffee fairly traded, and that whatever set of presuppositions you approach the issue with, they're unlikely to fit the reality completely.

aaronb
26-05-14, 10:15
Here is some more criticism of Fair Trade:

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/may/24/fairtrade-accused-of-failing-africas-poor

Again worth bumping the thread for I feel, for completeness if nothing else