What is Fair Trade Coffee? 

What Does Fair Trade Coffee Mean? 

When buying coffee, you may have noticed the ‘Fair Trade’ or ‘Fair Trade International’ label on your coffee bag. Did you take time to find out what the label means? That label is not there by mistake. There is a reason why it is there. So, what is fair trade coffee label on your coffee bag means? Below is a short description.

A Brief Definition of Fair Trade Coffee

Fair Trade USA is a non-profit organization that certifies goods like sugar, chocolate and coffee. This organization makes sure that products are made according to a set of strict standards that encourage environmental sustainability, as well as ensuring that the people involved in the production are treated and compensated fairly. Since 1998, this organization has played a key role in making sure all producers involved have reasons to smile.

Fairtrade can also be thought of as a partnership between coffee producers and coffee roasters to provide a living wage in return for a quality product. Ideally, this organization exists to create harmony between farmers and manufacturers involved in coffee production.

With that in mind, let’s go through a few things that trade fair standards result in.

Equitable partnerships between producers and purchasers

One benefit of these standards is a cordial relationship between farmers and coffee companies they buy their produce. These means farmers have an assurance a market exists. Farmers are also guaranteed a minimum price, protecting them from prices drop. Oftentimes coffee growers are paid a fair trade premium.

Greater level of justice at the individual and community level

Fairtrade makes sure individuals involved as well as the community benefit at the end of the day. The fair trade model is well designed to make sure individuals picking the coffee beans are well paid so that they have enough money to better the community they come from.

Income sustainability and fight against global poverty

These standards make sure those involved in the production are treated and compensated well so that they can live their lives. Often, fair trade advocate for minimum prices to protect those who grow and harvest coffee.

Coffee Profits do not Reach Coffee Growers and Field Workers

Companies like Starbucks certainly get their share of the coffee profits, but it might surprise you to find out who is making the big bucks when it comes to coffee growing, marketing, roasting, shipping and even retail stores.

When you buy a cup of coffee or a pound of your favorite coffee beans from the local shop, here is a breakdown of where your dollars go:

  • 55% goes to the shippers and the roasters
  • 25% goes to the retailers
  • 10% goes to the exporters
  • 10% goes to the growers
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As you can see, very little of the money wind up in the hands of the coffee growers or workers in the fields and instead 90% of the profit from that cup or pound of coffee goes to other “middle men” along the way.

Poor Working Conditions and Unfair Wages Perpetuate Poverty

Since the climate is perfect for coffee growing in many of these poor countries, there is no reason not to take advantage of this cash crop. However, according to organizations such as Global Exchange, one of the biggest problems about the coffee industry is that many of the field workers suffer in conditions that are essentially “sweatshops in the fields.”

For example, a typical field worker on a coffee plantation makes about $3.20 a day. These unfair wages often perpetuate poverty over several generations of families who work hard to support themselves, but cannot manage to do so with such low wages. Unsafe working conditions also put the health of farmers and field workers at risk.

Not to mention that many of these farms include workers who are children. According to UNICEF, 70% of children in some of the poorest countries around the world work in agricultural fields without any protection from labor laws.

Environmental protection

The lust for money often sees companies cutting corners to make more and more profits. Fair trade stands strong in making sure these companies follow the right procedure in the production process.

coffee cup with beans

Delicious fair-trade coffee

10 Principles of Fair Trade

  1. Maintain safe and healthy working conditions.
  2. Practice transparency in communication and take accountability in actions.
  3. Focus on improving the lives of producers through long-term agreements and interest-free cash advances.
  4. Respect the environment by using responsible production methods.
  5. Pay a fair wage to producer groups promptly and in the amount previously agreed upon by both parties.
  6. Prohibit the use of child labor and forced labor.
  7. Do not discriminate based on race, caste, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, HIV/Aids status, or age.
  8. Maintain safe and healthy working conditions.
  9. Create employment opportunities in the developing world.
  10. Foster independence for producer groups by encouraging them to improve their internal management skills and access new markets.
  11. Promote fair trade by raising awareness of the issues in the developing world and how ethical trade can improve the lives of producers.

Fair Trade Coffee – Why Buy it?

What if you are a coffee drinker who enjoys good quality coffee but you want to be socially responsible and not contribute to poverty in other countries? One solution is to buy fair trade coffees. These coffees eliminate a good portion of the middlemen profits and help to put more profits in the hands of the field workers and growers.

So where can you get good quality fair trade coffees? You may find brands of fair trade coffee right in your grocery store. A good rule of thumb is that if the label on the package of coffee does not include “fair trade” in the description, it is not a fair trade coffee. You might be surprised to find out that fair trade coffee prices are often equivalent to traditional coffees. Coffee drinkers can even purchase fair trade coffees online from companies who purchase them directly from coffee growers.

Some of the fair trade coffee brands

Ready to try the best fair trade coffee now? Below is a list of top fair trade certified brands you can try:

  • A fantastic French roast from Rhino Horn Coffee.
  • A Swiss water processed decaf-dark roast from Kicking Horse Coffee.
  • A great medium-dark roast from Ethical Bean Coffee.

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