Fairtrade is accused of doing less for coffee farmers than Starbucks
Fairtrade’s requirements reflect ‘whims of western consumers’ rather than needs of those in developing world, says report
Describing Fairtrade as costly, opaque and substantially unproven, the 130-page report commissioned by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) says: “Fairtrade requirements [on farmers] may well reflect the subjective views of western consumers and not the real needs of poor producers.” more…
I came across this interesting article about Fair Trade, and I thought it might be a good opportunity to explain why some of our coffees are, and others are not Fair Trade certified. The first question is this: is Fair Trade really fair?
The “C” market for coffee has been hovering around $2.00/lb. lately. Below is the Fair Trade Minimums chart for Arabica Coffee.
Status: 28. Oct 2010 Product
(specific product standard)
Product variety Price applies to Currency / Quantity x Unit Price level / *special price conditions Fairtrade minimum price Fairtrade premium Valid from Coffee Arabica
Conventional, washed worldwide
USD / 1 pound FOB* 1,25 0,10 01. Jun 2008 Coffee Arabica
Organic, washed worldwide
USD / 1 pound FOB* Organic differential: +0.20 See conventional coffee 01. Jun 2008 Coffee Arabica
Conventional, natural worldwide
USD / 1 pound FOB* 1,20 0,10 01. Jun 2008 Coffee Arabica
Organic, natural worldwide
USD / 1 pound FOB* Organic differential: +0.20 See conventional coffee 01. Jun 2008
Fair Trade certification is also not concerned with quality, which is a tool that can be used to earn a higher profit for coffee producers. Another factor to take into account is that coffee falls under the SPO category of Fair Trade certification. SPO stands for Small Producers’ Organizations. This means that unless the coffee is from an organization of farms, it can not be Fair Trade certified. This means that individual farms who are not part of a cooperative (for whatever reason) can never get any benefit that there is to be had from Fair Trade certification. This also means that the payments go to the cooperatives, and not to the individual producers. We all know that power has the potential to corrupt, and indeed, it often does. (not always, but the potential is enough to make us shy away from such a system)
Quality is never derived from an averaged system. Quality takes effort, attention to detail, persistence, and determination. Just as all work reaps a reward, the reward for the labors that result in quality is a higher price. The benefit to those who are willing to pay the higher price is a superior product, and by extension, a vastly improved sensory experience.
With the recognition of the potential for quality comes an increase in demand for not only quantity of quality, but also the level of quality. The demand drives producers to be motivated to pursue quality at the farm level.
The result of this free market model has been better coffee, higher payment to producers, improved non-political international relationships, and good-doing by people who cared enough to take a hard look at the reality behind the labels.
As consumers, we have the choice. We can look at a label and take it at face value, or we can look for the truth to really understand how our decisions are affecting others.
Some of our coffees have been, and will be Fair Trade certified. Most of them, however, are not. All of our coffees are AT LEAST Fair Trade minimum payments to farmers. This means that those coffees that do not come with this little icon actually paid MORE to the farmer than they would have received if the coffee had been Fair Trade certified.