THE Cumbria Fairtrade Network says it is tantalisingly close to becoming only the second county in England to receive the prestigious Fairtrade County status.

The bid received a boost when Cumbria County Council unanimously resolved to back the network's bid for the status and to support its work to promote Fairtrade products throughout Cumbria.

So far CFN has met four of the five criteria laid down by the Fairtrade Foundation for the status which at present is only held by Somerset.

The criteria include gaining support from the county council; gathering sufficient support from shops and food outlets offering Fairtrade products; have considerable take-up of Fairtrade products by businesses, workplaces and community groups; a properly constituted steering committee and "good" media coverage.

The media coverage is all that is required to satisfy the terms for the status, said co-ordinator for Cumbria Fairtrade Network Mr Joe Human.

At a full meeting of the council members resolved to review the council's purchasing policy to ensure Fairtrade goods were bought where possible.

They also agreed to promote awareness of Fairtrade through publicity made available to local people, promote local and products and producers and to nominate a council member or officer to work with the Fairtrade Network steering group.

The motion of support was put forward by deputy leader of CCC and councillor for Windermere Joan Stocker and received strong endorsements from leaders of the council's three main political parties.

Mr Human said the resolution would send a strong signal to residents, community groups and business alike of the importance of the work of Fairtrade which aims to improve the lives of farmers in developing countries by offering guaranteed stable prices for their products.

The Fairtrade initiative also works to hand out small premiums to farmers to invest in supporting businesses and community facilities, such as schools, health clinics, water supplies and roads.

Mr Human said Cumbria deserved the status and had displayed commitments to the campaign, with eight Fairtrade communities already in place, including ones at Kendal and Windermere, and that six more were expected to follow soon.

"I believe what we have achieved in Cumbria is a match for Somerset," he said. "Now all we need is some countywide media coverage as the county council has given this support this shouldn't be difficult at all."