Fair Trade in 2008
Like most of you, I made some resolutions this year. I'm not sure that I'll make much progress reducing my debt, and unfortunately my jeans will probably fit the same come swim-suit season, but there's one resolution that I can stick to - supporting Fair Trade and buying organically grown coffee whenever I can.
I mean, after all, who doesn't want to support the hard-working coffee farmers, and cut out the middleman at the same time?
You see, buying Fair Trade certified coffee helps small farmers and artisans, giving them strength and unity. Just over the last two years, prices paid to farmers for their beans have dropped more than half. There have been reports that the average coffee farmer saw only a few cents from each $3.00 latte sold. But when Fair Trade coffee cooperatives can guarantee a return of $1.26/lb of coffee, why not choose Fair Trade? It's especially important now, when coffee prices are continuing to plummet - just before the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, coffee futures were down -1.3.
With world market prices as low as they are right now, we're seeing that a lot of farmers that cannot maintain their families and their land anymore. "We need Fair Trade now more than ever," according to Jerónimo Bollen, Director of Manos Campesinas, a Fair Trade coffee cooperative in Guatemala. A number of studies have shown that Fair Trade coffee has a positive impact on the communities that grow it.
Fair Trade principles include:
Fair prices: Democratically organized farmer groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price and an additional premium for certified organic products. Farmer organizations are also eligible for pre-harvest credit.
Fair labor conditions: Workers on Fair Trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions, and living wages. Forced child labor is strictly prohibited.
Direct trade: Importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as directly as possible, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and empowering farmers to develop the business capacity necessary to compete in the global marketplace.
Community development: Farmers and farm workers invest Fair Trade premiums in social and business development projects like scholarship programs, quality improvement trainings, and organic certification.
The Fair Trade movement came about in the late 1980s, when an umbrella organization was set up in honor of a Dutch fictional character who opposed the exploitation of coffee pickers. This newly formed organization, Fair Trade Labeling Organization International (FLO International), allowed small growers and co-ops that met their criteria to use the Fair Trade certification label. The organization promotes long-term business relationships between buyers and sellers, as well as setting global standards, providing support to farmers, and certifying producers with labeling recognized in markets across the world.
At present, the certification is used in over 50 countries on dozens of different products - including coffee, tea, rice, bananas, cocoa, cotton, sugar, herbs and spices. This well-known mark guarantees these products have met certain environmental and humanitarian standards during production. This includes growing and harvesting, as well as monitoring the supply chain along the way to ensure the integrity of the product. The FLO also made sure to include an auditing system of Fair Trade producers and traders to ensure that agreed upon standards are continually met.
So while Fair Trade products remain a minuscule percentage of US trade, with only 5% of coffee sold here certified, I'll stick to my guns and buy coffee like Java Joe's Espresso Adoration and Decaf Original or Café La Semeuse Soleil.
Newman's Own Organic K-cups
As part of their "Coffee for a Cause" partnership, Newman's Own has created a line of K-cups exclusively for Keurig coffee and tea brewers. Newman's Own Special Blend Extra Bold is Fair Trade Certified and Organic, so that you can enjoy a great tasting coffee while helping charities partnered with Newman's Own.