What is Fair Trade Coffee?
Fair Trade is both a social movement and alternative business model that addresses the injustice of conventional trade by ensuring that farmers and crafts people earn a fair wage for their goods. Fair Trade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and an improved standard of living for some of the world’s poorest producers. Fair Trade means that trading partnerships are based on reciprocal benefits and mutual respect; that prices paid to producers reflect the work they do; that workers have the right to organize; that national health, safety, and wage laws are enforced; that products are environmentally sustainable and conserve natural resources.
Fair Trade is not a charity. It is a holistic approach to trade and development that aims to alter the ways in which commerce is conducted, so that trade can empower the poorest of the poor. Fair Trade organizations, importers, and retailers seek to create a sustainable and positive change in developing countries, as well as our own.
In reference to coffee, Fair Trade means that a minimum price per pound is set to insure farmers a decent income from producing coffee. If the coffee market in New York goes below that price, the farmers who grow Fair Trade coffee will be paid the higher Fair Trade price. If the market price rises above the Fair Trade price, the farmers will get the higher price plus an additional premium of 20-60 cents per pound. This system protects farmers from the unstable coffee commodities market.
Cooperative Coffees and Fair Trade
In 1999, Heine Brothers’ Coffee joined with six other micro-roasters in the US and Canada to form Cooperative Coffees, Inc., a member-owned importer of fairly traded and organically grown green coffee. In the last ten years Coop Coffees has imported millions of pounds of coffee – all from small scale farmer cooperatives in countries like Colombia, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.
Here are the basic principles of Fair Trade that Cooperative Coffees adhere to:
- Farmers are guaranteed a minimum fair trade price of $2.00 per pound for their coffee. If the world price rises above $2.00, farmers will be paid a small premium above the market price.
- Coffee importers provide credit to farmers against future sales, helping farmers stay out of debt to local middlemen who charge unsound rates of interest.
- Importers and roasters agree to develop direct, long-term trade relationships with producer groups, thereby cutting out middlemen and bringing greater stability to farming communities from growing season to growing season.