Did you know that if you spend for two cups of specialty coffee at $2.20 each, every day for one year, you’ll be spending more than what many coffee farmers are earning in a year?
That’s how bad the situation can be in coffee farms in some developing countries where growers cannot squarely compete in a free market. They need fair trade. It’s a burgeoning non-governmental movement based in the U.K. that promises to give coffee growers a fair price, one that will allow them to earn a decent living.
To help you better grasp why farmers are at a losing end in this multi-billion global business, the coffee infographic below illustrates the disparity in living conditions among the players in the global supply chain. That includes you as a coffee drinker and part of about a hundred million Americans drinking their cup of Joe every day.
Imagine the power of that force to enforce a change. Buying fair trade coffee makes you an enlightened consumer by choosing for a coffee product that pays the farmer fairly. We are also sharing various ways how you can easily spot fair trade products through the “Fair Trade” seal on the pack of the product. Fair trade coffee products stand out on the supermarket shelves with this same seal, and it is the same ones you’ll see in coffee houses that opt to sell fair trade coffee beans in their daily grind.
The idea of fair trade is simple: Coffee brands that carry a “Fair Trade” label mean that a good part of the money you pay for that cup is plowed back to the farmer. A fair trade price is admittedly a little higher than market prices to guarantee that the farmers get their worth of share. But if you pay for this kind of coffee, you get to help someone struggling across the continent to make ends meet.
Fair trade is hardly a utopian reality. It has its pitfalls as some communities find it costly to organize themselves into cooperatives to implement fair trade policies and quality control. Plus the fees and miscellaneous costs associated with logistics can turn off some farmers who count by pennies than dollars.
As the movement takes roots, the first step comes from you, the coffee drinker, whose purchasing dollar will decide if this movement can be sustainable. In Guatemala, for example, many farm cooperatives are already benefitting from fair trade prices. However, in Kenya much has to be developed. Critics may put down fair trade as a long shot to solve the coffee trade dilemma; surely it is, and it may also be the only shot to help the farmers.