We are all becoming increasingly familiar with the Fair Trade logo as we go around our stores and supermarkets. Fair Trade started as a small campaign and has become a major contributor to the food and drinks industry. The idea behind Fair Trade coffee, tea, chocolate and bananas etc. is to give the producer in the country of origin a fair price for their crop.
To be certified for Fair Trade, the importer must follow the regulations. This means meeting a minimum price and ensuring conditions for the small time farmer to be able to operate fairly. Fair Trade involves growing organically, and some farmers may need help to switch to this system.
Of course, an organic method is cheaper as it does not involve the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The fortunate by product of this is the benefit to the environment. The coffee farmer, for example, will probably work a small piece of land and mix his crops. He won’t operate like a big concern who come in and clear forest to run a large scale operation.
The advent of the movement has made an immense difference to the farmers and growers. A coffee farmer selling to a Fair Trade importer can lift himself and his family out of debt and poverty. Getting a fair and reasonable price for his harvest means being able to send his children to school which benefits the local community. Health care can be obtained and housing conditions improved. Some farmers had previously been receiving prices that did not meet the production cost.
As consumers, we have been indifferent to where our coffee comes from for too long. Coffee and other products has shocked us out of our apathy at last, and the growing number of people buying F.T. shows that people care about the exploitation of the farmers. This affects growers in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. A lot of coffee farmers in these regions band together to form coffee cooperatives. These organizations give them buying power and the ability to support each other.
The USA drinks a staggering one fifth of the world’s coffee production, so it’s heartening that more than a hundred companies have registered to be F.T. coffee suppliers. This includes the mighty Starbucks. Other organizations to come on board include Green Mountain, Peet’s and Tully’s.
The largest coffee seller in the US, Procter and Gamble got involved in F.T. coffee in 2003, after consumers and shareholders put pressure on them. The UK also has a thriving F.T. market, with F.T. coffee being supplied by Nestle, Sara Lee and Kraft. The Oxfam charity opened some F.T. coffee shops too. The future looks bright for Fair Trade.
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