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What is Fair Trade Coffee?

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Fair Trade Coffee Certification

Fairtrade coffee is all about coffee farmers receiving a fair price for their product, which allows them to have a decent living standard. 

To earn a free trade certification, coffee must be produced to fair trade standards as set by fair-trade organization. It’s simply a question of ethics, in line with the modern ethical consumer movement.

Why is fair trade coffee important?

Fair-trade coffee is very important because you wouldn’t want to enjoy your delicious espresso every morning, knowing the farmer who grew the coffee in your cup is starving in some far way impoverished community.

Before the international fair trade standard was implemented, there was little interest in protecting local growers and farmworkers’ rights.

The first fair trade certification was introduced in 1988, following a coffee crisis which saw the markets flooded with coffee, so the price dropped to disastrous levels. Not for consumers, obviously, but for local farmers who ended up earning less than it cost them to produce coffee beans.

The fair trade certification was launched with a clear goal – to raise coffee prices enough for local growers to turn some profit.

Following another few years of problems generated by the lack of price quotas , the initial agreement was renegotiated in 2001 and 2007, so as to stabilize the coffee industry.

How does fair trade work?

Fair trade organizations work together to promote coffee consumption, which allows for prices to be maintained at a decent level. Besides growers receiving a decent price for their coffee, fair trade organizations provide economic counseling and see to it that local communities get economic support, which allows for better health and living conditions for all those involved in coffee production, including their families.

At the same time, fair trade organizations promote environmental farming practices and prohibit child labor.

Today, fair trade certification is issued by Fairtrade International.

In today’s world, where consumers are increasingly preoccupied with ethical and environmental issues, fair trade coffee has become a big business. Retail sales of fair trade coffee grew by 250% between 2004 and 2014.

Is Starbucks coffee fair trade? What about McDonalds?

The growing ethical consumer’s movement has forced virtually all major companies to use fair trade coffee. Starbucks presents itself as the largest purchaser of certified free trade coffee in the world, while McDonalds has pledged to an ambitious goal -100% of their coffee would be bought from fair trade sources by 2020.

Dunkin’ Donuts prides itself with the fact that, as early as 2004, it became the first national brand to sell espresso beverages made exclusively with certified fair trade coffee beans.

Does it mean that all major food-chains sell exclusively fair trade coffee? Probably not, but they are definitely headed in that direction.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that not everybody is happy with the way current fair trade certification works.

Critics say these agreements favor larger plantations over small farms in poor countries, where people still earn very little.

Recent years have seen a proliferation of other ethical coffee certification schemes, such as Rainforest Alliance and UTZ.

So next time you’re ordering a cup of coffee or buying a fresh roast, remember to check whether or not it was produced fairly!

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