What is Fair Trade Coffee?

I’ve heard so many different answers to this question. It’s time to set the record straight on what exactly ‘fair trade coffee’ means.

What it boils down to is that coffee farmers receive a ‘fair’ share of the money that their coffee makes the seller. Supply and demand used to control the price for coffee. If the demand was high, and the supply was low – consumer prices would go up. If supply was high, and demand was low…well you get the picture. Farmers were forced to sell their product at a loss, or not at all. This is where the Fair Trade comes into play. No matter how high or low the demand and supplies are at any given time, farmers are guaranteed a minimum floor price for their products. If the market price for coffee are greater than the minimum floor price, the farmers will receive ‘premiums per pound’ for their product.

Not every coffee bean farmer can start selling their coffee at fair trade prices – only certified farmers that are part of a coop with other local farmers.

To obtain a Fair Trade Certification, coffee producers must meet the following criteria:

Fair labour conditions – meaning that all farm workers need to be treated fairly, receive a proper wage, enjoy safe working conditions. And child labor is strictly forbidden.

Direct trade – Eliminate 3rd party middleman sales. All sales go directly from farmer to importers.

Helping their communities – Fair trade farmer are expected to financially invest their fair-trade premiums to improve their local communities

The official Fair Trade certification was started in 1988, in the Netherlands. Originally named “Max Havelaar”, the organisation created a label for products that met certain wage requirements. Three other labeling organizations were founded: Fair Trade Foundation, TransFair USA, and Rattvisemarkt. 1997 was the year that these four came together in the form of the Fair Trade Labeling Organization.

Fair trade organic coffee is enjoying an increase in popularity each year. A lot of the major players like Starbucks and McDonalds are all advertising certified fair trade coffee. Probably due to public awareness of fair trade. (I guess you could compare it to the free-range eggs vs factory farmed eggs).

By buying fair trade coffee (and other products like chocolate and tea for example) you’re making a difference for the farmers that provide for us. So maybe it’ll cost you a little more, but isn’t it all worth it in the end? Knowing that you’re supporting someone and keeping their family business alive?

Having said all that, don’t expect all fair trade coffee to be of the same quality. There is coffee and then there is good coffee 🙂 Here’s an example of good coffee you can buy and use at home or in the office – Organic Fair Trade Coffee.

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