The Fair Trade Shell Game

If you buy fair trade, expecting a better cup of coffee, are you (and the farmer) getting mugged?

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  • There is absolutely no reason that a coffee farmer cannot sell beans as both fair trade and specialty products. Fair trade simply guarantees a minimum price.  It does not prevent a farmer from selling higher quality beans at a higher price.  Small coffee farmers face serious problems and when we help them, we help ensure that high quality coffee will always be available for consumers.

  • Unfortunately, this video really misses the mark both in terms of what Fair Trade actually aims to do, and how Fair Trade relates to specialty coffee.  Fair Trade is a market-based approach to social, environmental and economic sustainability. It wasn’t developed as a certification of quality. Of the world’s approximately 25 million people producing coffee, the VAST majority live on less than $2/day. How can we demand investment in quality from a farmer struggling to put food on the table?That said, Fair Trade does enable quality, and nearly all Fair Trade Certified coffees today are specialty grade. The two are not mutually exclusive. (I would also like to note that “specialty coffee” is not a certification, as stated in the video, it is a quality grade).By supporting farmers to meet their basic needs (nutrition, clean water, education), they’re actually able to focus on improving quality, and with Fair Trade have the additional income, community development premiums (5% of which go to quality and productivity), resources, and information needed to produce some of the best, award-winning coffee on the market. And, they’re meeting rigorous standards that prohibit things like child labor and dangerous chemicals.It’s time to debunk the myth that Fair Trade products are inherently low quality. Fair Trade has come a long way in the last 50+ years, and as demonstrated by the exceptional Fair Trade coffee out there today, quality and sustainability can go hand-in-hand.

  • Interesting, but why can’t the beans not be Fairtrade certified AND certified as Speciality? I might add, I have seen first hand what difference FairTrade can make, because I have actually been on a farm with someone who sells FairTrade coffee and see first hand what it has meant for him! FairTrade only makes one specific promise and does not make out otherwise!

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    • In fact, it can! Nearly all Fair Trade Certified coffee today qualifies as specialty grade. The video incorrectly states that growers are leaving Fair Trade certification for “specialty certification.” In reality, the two are not mutually exclusive. Also, specialty coffee is not a certification, it is a quality grade, and with the support of Fair Trade farmers are able to produce some amazing coffee.

  • Which is exactly why I make my own coffe at home….I dont do Starbucks and havent since a year ago prices keep going up and most of them I do not see enough people of color so I dont patronize the establishment period!!!!!!


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