Fair Trade Coffee

Have you ever stopped to think about where your coffee comes from, and what workers in other countries went through to get that coffee from the fields to your coffee pot? We often don’t realize that some third world country farm workers are forced to work in what is described as “sweatshop” conditions in the field. Usually when we think about sweatshop workers we think of those working in factories. But the same thing goes on in the agricultural fields of the world. Coffee farmers who own small farms sometimes even receive prices for their coffee that do not cover the costs of producing the crop. This just carries on the cycle of poverty for the farmer trying to get by.

Fair Trade is a movement that strives to ensure fair and equitable partnerships between North American consumers and coffee producers in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The goal is to make sure that the coffee farmers in the world get fair prices for their coffee crop so they can maintain a decent living wage.

For farmers that are organized in Fair Trade cooperatives around the world this ensures a minimum price of $1.26/pound for their coffee crop even during volatile market times. It also gives the farmers opportunities for credit at reasonable prices. They also must provide assistance to farmers to help them transition to more organic farming.

Fair Trade Certified coffee is monitored under an independent system to make sure that it is produced with fair labor conditions. To become Fair Trade certified, coffee importers must meet the criteria guidelines in providing for fair treatment of the farmers.

Coffee is the first commodity in the United States that is monitored independently to insure producers are working under decent conditions.

Consumers are beginning to be more aware of the sometimes horrible conditions under which many of the products they buy are produced. Because of this, there is a consumer trend towards people who only want to spend their dollars on products they know were produced under good working conditions. Sparked by this demand from consumers, over 100 coffee companies have now signed licensing agreements to offer Fair Trade Certified Coffee. Major companies that have joined in include: Green Mountain, Starbucks, Diedrich, Tully’s, and Equal Exchange. Nearly 10,000 retail locations are now being served with Fair Trade certified coffee products.

Fair Trade is as much an environmental issue as it is a human issue. Small farmers are not destroying the land because they don’t have the money to clear large forests to gain more growing land, or to buy chemicals for their crops. They grow on small plots of land that have been unharmed by toxic chemicals.

The movement toward equitable treatment to the world’s coffee producers will likely continue. Consumers will no longer stand for corporate business owners pocketing huge revenues at the expense of workers and producers who toil under them, barely getting by. Buying coffee that carries the Fair Trade Certified label ensures that you are buying a product that has been produced under farmers who are getting fair and equitable treatment for their labor.