Friday, May 17, 2013

The fair trade system aims to raise standards of living and employment for farmers and producers in developing countries. It does this by setting a minimum price for their produce. In return, trading organizations in economically developed parts of the world are able to use a particular fair trade logo on their packaging. Fair trade coffee brands have become more popular in recent years. Although these command higher prices, consumers are willing to pay extra for brands they perceive to be ethically sourced.

Fair Trade CoffeeFair Trade Schemes

There is no single fair trade scheme for coffee, with different suppliers and retailers operating under varying regulations and standards. The overall aim of these schemes is to increase the income of coffee farmers in developing countries. To become part of a fair trade system, coffee suppliers must meet a number of criteria.

These may include the banning of child labour and elimination of pesticides and herbicides. In addition to this, some programs focus on additional sustainable environment elements. Farmers tend to be part of a cooperative that shares out the benefits of being a part of the fair trade process. Companies who buy their product pay more to have the fair trade logo on their product packaging.


One fair trade scheme is Prodecoop in Nicaragua. This has over 2000 members, with a third being women. As well as distributing knowledge and expertise of coffee production throughout its entire membership, there is investment in social aspects such as housing and education. The scheme also has some 40% of women in management or supervisory positions.

Benefits of Fair Trade

Proponents of these systems highlight the improvements to the lives of farmers and others in the developing world, including financial and socioeconomic benefits. Financial incentives of joining a fair trade scheme result in better standards of living, cleaner water supplies, more schools and better health care. At the other end of the system, consumers become aware of issues in the developing world, such as exploitation and poverty.

Costs of Fair Trade

Critics of these schemes highlight the minimal increase in income for farmers. Some of the costs Fresh Coffee Beansrequired to meet the fair trade requirements may be passed on to the farmers. The cooperatives may be the only way to access international markets in some places, forcing farmers to commit to long-term contracts.

Distributors of coffee in the developed countries can charge whatever price they wish, with the added advantage of the fair trade name attached to attract buyers. The coffee may be marketed as a luxury brand, with the ethical angle to justify higher prices. Not all of the profits may be passed back to the farmers.

Fair trade may create a dependency on Western "charity", whereas realistic market conditions are needed to help developing countries, including infrastructure and farming machinery.

Fair trade systems can help raise the economic and social conditions for coffee farmers and of course their families. However, the multitude of schemes works in different ways, with varying benefits for people in the developing world.

About The Author:

Author Colin McD. We recently had a bean to cup coffee machine installed in at work (from the guys at Liqudiline Solutions), which has revolutionsed the morning coffee and smell in the office! However it made me wonder what Fair Trade was exactly and what it meant.

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