Today’s society is very familiar with fair trade coffee, yet it is unclear whether the true meaning behind the economic, environmental and social impact of purchasing and drinking it is understood. In order to comprehend the full impact fair trade coffee has on our society, one must learn what it means.
A small number of large corporations around the world control the production, trade, and retailing of goods and services. These large corporations firmly influence free trade, which has become the primary detriment to trading fairly. Through determination, these corporations have successfully convinced the world’s governments that loosening trade regulations and breaking down barriers to free trade will result in the rise of workers’ wages and benefits with the expanding foreign market.
The competition between large corporations to obtain control over the global market has resulted in reducing their cost by cutting jobs, wages, and benefits to workers. Corporate profits leaving the country rather than being reinvested locally hurts the workforce as well. Government and corporations have written several agreements to protect the intellectual and property rights of corporations. However, agreements to protect workers’ rights and the environment have yet to be enforced.
Coffee is a highly traded commodity in the world, second to oil. Over 25 million farmers and their families depend on it for a steady income. The fact that North American consumers pay $4 to $11 a pound for conventional coffee, which is the same coffee that is bought from coffee growers at $.80 per pound, clearly proves the coffee market is unfair. The involvement of the Fair Trade Organization has benefited these growers by helping them earn $1.12 to $1.26 per pound.
The Fair Trade Organization has been able to lower the cost by working directly with democratically run producer associations, worker-owned cooperatives, producers and growers. These efforts have resulted in the farmers and producers joining forces to achieve reduced costs, simplified credit access, fair pricing, fair working conditions and the ability to reinvest in the community.
Purchasing fair trade coffee means that you are giving a ‘voice’ to the coffee producers and farmers and empowering women and indigenous communities by returning the control of the coffee market into the their hands.
In comparing the cost of fair trade coffee to the traditional coffee, the elimination of the liaison between the growers has made the costs comparable. Even though the distribution costs of fair trade coffee is often higher in price than coffee purchased in the grocery store, the costs are equal to those of most gourmet coffees.
The controversy between corporations concerning equal pay and fair working conditions does not affect the high standards and quality of fair trade coffee. Coffee that is grown for the fair trade market receives a higher recognition in today’s market place. This is due to the coffee being developed organically (free from pesticides and herbicides). Consumers benefit from the indefinable reward of knowing their contribution helps the workers to defeat the corporations.
During your next visit to the grocery store, look for the Fair Trade Certified logo. This logo symbolizes that the Fair Trade Federation (FTF), which upholds the fair trade standards by requiring its members to meet strict criteria in order to achieve fair trade status, has licensed the product. Encourage your friends, family, and co-workers to purchase fair trade coffee on their next trip to the market. From the grower to the consumer, we all receive the benefits that fair trade brings to the community.