In this day and age we are all pretty much aware of Fair Trade, we certainly know we should be looking out for the label on our foods but in terms of coffee there are also a few other certifications out there, the Rainforest Alliance or Organic certification for example. So if Fair Trade isn’t the only thing we need to be looking out for and it doesn’t cover all basis to ensure we get our guilt free cup of coffee, what is it and what does it cover in terms of coffee?
Fairtrade was set up as a response to a crash in the global coffee economy that occurred in the late 1900’s early 2000. Whilst coffee production costs were rising the prices being paid for coffee were declining leaving Mexican workers with diminishing wages. The crash left Mexican coffee workers in dire straits and people were saddened but not surprised to hear that when 14 where found dead in the Arizona desert due to exposure that over half of them were coffee farmers or pickers.
So, what is Fairtrade and how does it make a difference? It really boils down to one main thing, getting workers and farmers a good deal, but there’s a few aspects to this and its worthy of note when you are thinking about selecting a coffee that’s right for you. As coffee is the second highest traded commodity, you would think that some of the massive amount of profit made from it would naturally filter back to the farmers and producers but sadly not. More often than not the farmers have little to no idea where their beans go or the price tag that gets attached to them. It isn’t uncommon for producers to have to sell their coffee at prices that are less than the actual cost of production which makes their business unviable and puts them into a cycle of debt. It isn’t uncommon for workers to live on ‘sweatshop’ wages, in appalling living conditions and for extremely long hours, take a look at this article for further information about the industry’s treatment of workers. Could you happily drink your morning latte guilt free knowing the conditions that people have gone through in order to produce it? If not, by looking out for the Fair Trade mark and only selecting coffees that are certified you will be assisting them in ensuring a better life for workers in the coffee trade and supporting them to:
Give power back to the farmers: Fair Trade work to ensure that farmers get to be a part of the decision process and shape their own future, they already have a Board of Directors and a General Assembly in which they can have their say and be involved in the overall decision making processes.
Fairtrade Minimum Price: Fairtrade Minimum Price is the element of Fairtrade that ensures that small Farmers do not earn unliveable amounts by having to sell at rates lower than the cost of production (this is regularly checked by FLOCert).
Fairtrade Premium: It is not just the Fairtrade Minimum Price that helps the farmers financially it is also the addition of a Fairtrade Premium that is given to a communal fund “for farmers to use, as they see fit, to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions” “(fairtrade.org). This is a financial benefit, but its main benefit is through its social and educational impact on the regions in which coffee is produced.
Fairtrade International Climate Change Programme: The positive impacts of Fairtrade on those who produce coffee for a living do not end there, they also lead a number of initiatives, one of which is the International Climate Change Programme (fairtrade.net). This programme is developed with the global effects of climate change in mind and the negative effects this would have on agriculture and horticulture. Due to the nature of coffee production the climates that are required for cultivation are limited, therefore it is crucial that this kind of initiative is running to protect the regions from losing their ability to farm coffee due to weather conditions.