Fair Trade Coffee. Pay to play?

Let me preface this post with the fact that I am Voluntaryist Libertarian. What does that have to do with Fair Trade Coffee? I means I believe that ultimately things work better when individuals are able to connect and associate themselves, they are better at achieving their own individual goals. That’s my issue with Fair Trade Coffee, the farmer has to pay to play. It’s unfortunate that coffee customers think that they’re doing the best for the “little guy” when they make a purchase with the Fair Trade Coffee label. Let me tell you why.

The concept of Fair Trade Coffee is wonderful.

fair trade coffee associtation

Fair Trade USA states on their website:

Fair Trade goods are just that. Fair. From far-away farms to your shopping cart, products that bear our logo come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated. We help farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities”. Sounds great… In theory that is, but we all know what they say about the road paved with good intentions.

But what is the process to achieve the Fair Trade Certification if you’re an impoverished farmer? Unfortunately, unless you are able to afford, “…comprehensive, cost-effective certification services for producers and exporters”, as a producer, that may be a cost that you couldn’t afford to spare. Is it fair that you can’t bring your coffee to market because you couldn’t afford to join the club?

coffee farmer in ethiopia organic high quality not fair trade coffee

What are the unintended consequences of Fair Trade Coffee?

NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organizations) like Fair Trade USA have become an unintended consumer of the majority of revenue paid and earned by the farmer. In a recent report of a study of Guatemalan cooperatives have that ultimately the benefits of participating in the fair-trade system are offset by the price the growers have to pay for fair-trade certification. No benefit.

At the end of every Saturday, we ask the kids what went well and what would they say didn’t, and pay them for that performance. Fair Trade doesn’t do that. It doesn’t pay for quality of the of the crop. It guarantees a flat rate no matter what, processes included. I love to be known as the coffee roaster that brings QUALITY coffee to the table, and that the product came to me with the most value added process. Does that make sense?

So next time you think about buying that Fair Trade Coffee stuff, take a deep breath, and think about Darrin and his crazy ideas on Fair Trade Coffee at his coffee shop. Then take a look at the beans I have for sale, because you can be assured, I’ll be another line of defense that’ll make sure the producer gets a “fair trade” in the process.

Is there another option instead of Fair Trade Coffee?

Something fairly new to the Third Wave Coffee is the concept of the Direct Trade Coffee purchase. Unlike Fair Trade, that requires a particular certification would be Direct Trade Coffee . Through this green coffee purchasing practice, the price for the coffee is negotiated between the coffee roaster and the coffee producer, also known as the farmer.