Why Fair Trade Coffee?

By Carson Adley

Coffee Beans :: Coffee Beans Is A Common Fair Trade Product

Whenever possible you should look for coffee beans that are fair trade. The fair trade coffee movement has been seeing steady growth in the last decade. Many savvy consumers are demanding fair trade options which are forcing large coffee retailers to take notice. Since the onset of the global financial crisis in late 2008, coffee prices have plunged but the prices most people pay in the United States has not changed. The large coffee suppliers and retailers have simply pocketed the difference.

Fair Trade means a fair partnership between the coffee farmers and the large companies that market the products in lucrative North American and European markets. The system works to guarantee that low-income farmers in coffee growing countries earn a livable wage for their daily labor.

To be certified as fair trade, these conditions must be met:

  • A fair wage is paid to the coffee grower, which covers not only the cost of production but also enables them to have money left over to live well.
  • Employees must be offered opportunities for advancement.
  • Farmers must engage in environmentally sustainable practices.
  • Coffee plantations must provide healthy and safe working conditions.
  • Children and women are protected from exploitation.
  • The relationship between the coffee growers and the companies that purchase their coffee must be fair, balanced and financially transparent so it can be properly monitored.

Fair trade products can be identified by a "Fair Trade Certified" label or the seal of approval from the Fair Trade Federation. The Fair Trade Federation is an association of businesses that follow fair trade principles and their logo ensures that the coffee company is committed to the highest fair trade standards. For a product to carry a Fair Trade label it must be inspected and certified by Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International. This group currently operates in over 70 countries has over 800 producer organizations working in its vast Fair Trade coffee network.

In addition to Fair Trade coffee, other agricultural products are also certified by the Fair Trade Federation, including: bananas, tea, sugar, chocolate, honey, wine, flowers and cocoa. In 2008, Fair Trade certified sales amounted to slightly more than US $1 billion worldwide, a 22% increase from year-to-year. This still remains a fraction of the estimated US $70-80 billion global coffee industry. However, the impact in the lives of farmers is huge, with Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International estimating that over 7.5 million coffee producers and their families are benefiting from fair trade programs, technical assistance and community development projects.

When you buy a $1 or $2 cup of coffee at a coffee shop, how much do you think ends up in a grower's pocket? Not nearly as much as you'd think. In fact, the amount of coffee required for a medium-sized cup probably only cost the coffee shop about $0.06. The grower of the coffee receives less than 1% of the price of that coffee - which amounts to about $0.006. So, next time you have a cup of coffee that isn't fair trade, think of that. But by choosing companies that sell Fair Trade coffee products you can ensure a fair price is being paid to the growers.

Carson Adley
Article by Carson Adley
Carson Adley is a coffee and tea specialist at Coffee Marvel. We specialize in organic tea and fair trade coffee that we sell online with free shipping on orders over $50. Committed to the environment, we are pleased to offer many environmentally friendly and sustainable products. For more information, please visit our website at www.coffeemarvel.com.

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