Coffee is second only to oil as the most traded commodity in the world, and the United States is its largest consumer. While the average cost for a pound of coffee ranges from $3.00 to almost $40.00, the average third world coffee farmer receives only 25 to 50 cents. Though a good yield can garner close to $10,000 a year for the average farmer, by the time that same yield hits the cup in the US, it is worth more than three-quarters of a million dollars.
Before harvested coffee beans make it to the US, they are bought and sold by middlemen, who set the per pound price paid to disadvantaged farmers. Though there have been initiatives to curb the middleman’s influence, there hasn’t necessarily been a way to side-step them completely, until now.
Fair trade organizations, such as Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) and FLO-CERT, provide strict guidelines that follow coffee beans from plant to finished product. When a product is designated Fair Trade Certified(TM), it means it has been produced for a fair price, under safe and healthy conditions, and in accordance with direct trade standards that give the farmer more control and allow them to compete globally. Fair trade organizations also work with farmers to promote community development programs and environmentally sustaining farming practices.
More consumers are switching to Fair Trade coffee.
As awareness and availability increase, more people are making the decision to purchase Fair Trade Certified products. What started as a grass roots effort to help struggling farmers in third world countries has grown to a world-wide movement to ensure coffee producers are able to sustain their families, communities and their harvest.
Fair Trade Certified coffee is growing in popularity and can now be bought in most supermarkets, from wholesale suppliers or through online coffee retailers. It is sold as ground coffee, coffee beans, coffee pods or even instant coffee. Major coffee shops and restaurants are beginning to offer Fair Trade Certified coffees side-by-side or as an alternative to regularly produced coffees.
Does Fair Trade coffee cost more?
While there is a slight variance in pricing when compared with mass-produced products, Fair Trade Certified coffee is priced competitively with other gourmet and specialty coffees, and any difference will decrease as Fair Trade coffee sales increase. Bypassing the middlemen allows Fair Trade Certified coffee prices to stay competitive while netting the farmer a bigger return.
How does purchasing Fair Trade benefit coffee farmers?
Under fair trade agreements, farmers receive a set minimum price for their product, unlike regular coffee growers whose income is generally far below market value. Fair Trade certification also helps farmers implement organic growing practices, better labor practices, and safer working conditions. Benefits reach the farmers through a labeling and audit system that tracks the coffee from harvest to packaging.
Can you taste a difference?
Fair Trade coffees don’t taste different because they are grown the same as any coffee, but under improved conditions. Many fair trade organizations are working with farmers to develop organic and shade grown coffees techniques which means coffees that are healthier for you and the environment.
How do you know if you’re buying Fair Trade Certified coffee?
To find Fair Trade coffee at your local store or via an online retailer, simply look for the Fair Trade Certified Mark on the package. By selecting products licensed to use the certification mark, you can be sure your purchase is making a positive difference by helping disadvantaged farmers get a better deal.
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About the Author:
R.L. Fielding has been a freelance writer for 10 years, offering her expertise and skills to a variety of major organizations in the education, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, financial services, and manufacturing industries. She lives in New Jersey with her dog and two cats and enjoys rock climbing and ornamental gardening.