Organic, Non-GMO, Sustainable, Farm-Raised, Free-Range… terms like these can often be pretty confusing for the average consumer. Some of these are simply marketing buzzwords, meant to entice you into buying a specific product, and some are legitimate designations that carry weight in the food industry. So let’s consider one designation imperative to the coffee industry: Fair Trade.
Fair trade products must be produced without the use of forced labor, and with wellness checks on the actual working conditions. No genetically modified crops or those raised through unsustainable methods may be labeled as Fair Trade. In order to entice farmers to grow their crops in this manner, there is a set floor price for Fair Trade goods. This means that the farmers are guaranteed to sell them for a certain amount of money, no matter what.
The most common Fair Trade goods are cocoa, bananas, tea, sugar, and of course – coffee.
Fair Trade is also good for the environment because the goods cannot be made using harmful agricultural techniques that have become common in some countries. Farmers that want to be certified must follow the proper guidelines in disposing of waste, reforesting, and conserving as much water as possible.
The Relationship Between Grower and Consumer
Fair Trade also ensures that the consumers of the coffee have a connection to the growers. Any coffee shop serving Fair Trade coffee also tend to know the countries and regions their coffee is coming from. Small farms are able to succeed and expand because of these key relationships, and Fair Trade ensures that the product is second-to-none.
These days we are seeing more certified Fair Trade coffee than ever before. But the U.S. still lags behind on overall money spent on Fair Trade goods (which is definitely something we need to work on). Individuals can up their own Fair Trade purchases, but larger businesses and corporations also need to embrace it for Fair Trade to really scale up.
Starbucks now sells a few Fair Trade coffees, and soon they hope to add even more to the menu. Companies like this that serve millions of cups of coffee a day can really make a difference in the lives of these Fair Trade farmers.
Fair Trade is an amazing system, but not a perfect one. In order to facilitate the Fair Trade certification process, farms are allowed to submit themselves as a “producer network.” They are then analyzed together, rather than as separate farms so some less-than-perfect producers may slip under the ropes. The vast majority of Fair Trade coffee comes from reputable, hard-working farmers in the proper climates across the globe. So you don’t have to worry about getting a subpar product when buying something labeled Fair Trade.
What do you think about Fair Trade certified products? Do you think it’s worth trying to go out of your way to buy them? Let us know in the comments!