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How Choosing Fair Trade Coffee Can Change Lives

How Choosing Fair Trade Coffee Can Change Lives

Have you ever thought about where your coffee comes from? The journey it takes from seed to cup, the farmer, the roaster, the shop owners, the people who literally take the coffee from point A to point B. 

The network of people required for the average American to have their morning cup of coffee is extensive. 

Unfortunately, this network is also imbalanced.



In a non-Fair Trade model, coffee farmers must contend with challenges like middlemen, or commodities traders, who pay farmers lower prices than their goods are worth in order to raise their own profits. When the market is oversaturated with coffee, prices drop. In places where employment is scarce, working long hours in unsafe conditions for extremely low wages might be the only option. 

Coffee is the commodity with the second highest export to the Global North (second only to crude oil). This means there's almost always a demand for coffee making these jobs more reliable, in spite of the conditions.

Additionally, coffee grows best near the equator, but many of the countries where this climate exists face economic uncertainties due to governmental issues or other factors.   

Because the price for unroasted (green) coffee is determined by a global commodities market rather than growers, the price fluctuates daily and often drops so low that coffee farmers are losing money with every sale.

Lately, this has been more of an issue than ever. In 2014 the price per pound was around $2, but in 2019 it was at a 14-year low at only $0.89 per pound.

When you consider how much you pay for a pound of coffee - anywhere from $6-$15 dollars at the typical grocery store, it's hard to believe the people who do the growing might receive less than a dollar. 




So what's different about Fair Trade? Coffee that is fair trade certified meets all of the fair trade requirements. 

Child labor is prohibited, discrimination is prohibited, safe conditions are a priority, and of course, the wages farmers receive are fair! 

A hugely important aspect of Fair Trade coffee is the Fair Trade Minimum Price. This price is determined by a global benchmark on production costs, and was last set in 2011 at $1.40 per pound, or $1.70 for organic certified coffee. When the regular market prices drop below this fair trade price, farmers can be assured that they can still cover their costs. 


Read this next: 4 Feel-Good Facts About Fair Trade Coffee


This is possible for a few reasons:

1. Middlemen are largely eliminated, with Fair Trade coffee distributors typically buying coffee berries (what you roast to get the coffee bean) directly from farmers. 

2. Fair Trade coffee distributors are largely selling to the Global North market, which means distributors can make a lot more money for their coffee - and in exchange, pay farmers higher prices for their coffee berries - than they could if farmers sold their berries to local markets and middlemen. 

3. In the Fair Trade coffee model, there's an emphasis on transparency, trust, and the building of relationships. Most distributors commit to at least several years of a partnership, to allow time for growth, development, and stabilization of the growing method. 

4. In addition to receiving a livable wage, coffee farmers who work with Fair Trade distributors often have access to further education about human rights, safety, and business to foster independence.

5. Once a fair price has been agreed upon, many Fair Trade distributors pay a portion of that price up front to help farmers cover the costs of growing coffee, and pay the rest of the order price when they receive the coffee berries. 

Choosing Fair Trade coffee might seem like a small choice, but this is why it has the power to change lives. 



The current situation

The average commodity price for coffee has been below the Fair Trade Minimum Price since August 2017, putting farmers who aren't involved in Fair Trade networks at a huge disadvantage. Many farmers are turning to other crops or abandoning farming all together, and conditions have only become more dire with COVID19.


Read more about Fair Trade coffee and how it works:

1. 4 Feel-Good Facts About Fair Trade Coffee (Global Gifts - that's us!)

2. 5 Common Myths about Fair Trade Coffee (Fair Trade Certified)

3. Harvard study finds Fair Trade coffee does make a difference in local communities (The West)

4. The Effects of Fair Trade Certification: Evidence From Coffee Producers in Costa Rica (Harvard University)

5. What Is Fair Trade (FairTrade America)



Fair Trade coffee distributors buy coffee from coffee farmers at a fair price, but they can only buy what they can distribute. That means they can only continue to support farmers if there is a demand for Fair Trade coffee.

Enter you!

By purchasing Fair Trade coffee instead of regular coffee, you're contributing to a fairer world in which coffee farmers receive a livable wage for the immense work put into our beloved coffee beans. 

You can shop all our coffee and teas online or in store, OR shop coffee subscriptions and gift yourself two bags of ethically sourced, fair trade coffee each month. 







What is Fair Trade coffee? Webstaurantstore.com

5 Common Myths about Fair Trade Coffee Fair Trade Certified