Friday, February 10, 2017

Fair Trade Coffee

This morning I saw an ad for a coffee brand on TV that prominently promoted the "Fair Trade" label. That label now appears on a number of products from developing countries and originally was intended to get the little guy a better price for his labor. There's no evidence that has actually happened, but it has become a huge marketing campaign, and makes people (you and me and especially churches) feel better. It's a product produced in the poorest countries consumed by the richest countries--22% by the U.S. and 67% by EU. Because it's intended to help the small farmer, large corporate producers don't qualify for the label, even it they pay their farmers more, provide schools and hospitals for the community and use sustainable/organic agriculture. 
"Fair Trade USA is a nonprofit, but an unusually sustainable one. It gets most of its revenues from service fees from retailers. For every pound of Fair Trade coffee sold in the United States, retailers must pay 10 cents to Fair Trade USA. That 10 cents helps the organization promote its brand, which has led some in the coffee business to say that Fair Trade USA is primarily a marketing organization. In 2009, the nonprofit had a budget of $10 million, 70 percent of which was funded by fees. The remaining 30 percent came from philanthropic contributions, mostly from foundation grants and private donors.

People in the coffee industry find it hard to criticize FLO and Fair Trade USA, because of its mission “to empower family farmers and workers around the world, while enriching the lives of those struggling in poverty” and to create wider conditions for sustainable development, equity, and environmental responsibility.6 “I’m hook, line, and sinker for the Fair Trade mission,” says Shirin Moayyad, director of coffee purchasing for Peet’s Coffee & Tea Inc. “When I read [the statement], I thought, there’s nothing I disagree with here. Everything here I believe in.” Yet Moayyad has concerns about the effectiveness of the model, mostly because she does not see FLO making progress toward those goals."

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