Thursday, December 14, 2006

Fair Trade Coffee

The United States consumes one-fifth of all the world's coffee, making it the largest consumer in the world. But few Americans realize that agriculture workers in the coffee industry often toil in what can be described as "sweatshops in the fields." Many small coffee farmers receive prices for their coffee that are less than the costs of production, forcing them into a cycle of poverty and debt.

Fair Trade is a viable solution to this crisis, assuring consumers that the coffee we drink was purchased under fair conditions. To become Fair Trade certified, an importer must meet stringent international criteria; paying a minimum price per pound of $1.26, providing much needed credit to farmers, and providing technical assistance such as help transitioning to organic farming. Fair Trade for coffee farmers means community development, health, education, and environmental stewardship.

Starbucks only purchases between 1-2% of it's coffee through fair trade. Although Starbucks claim that they only purchase coffee from farmers where good labour practices are endorsed for workers. Starbucks offers bags of whole bean fair trade coffee for sale, however the coffee it brews is not. After campaigning in 2003, Starbucks have agreed to offer brewed fair trade coffee on request. The only way to increase the amount Starbucks purchases through fair trade its to increase the demand for brewed fair trade coffee. So if are going to drink Starbucks coffee, as over-roasted as some people think it is, try and ask for fair trade.


Divya said...

Priya, I agree with you – if you are going to buy coffee or tea .... insist for ones which have the fair trade label on it.

India is the world’s largest tea producer and the fair trade practices were finally implemented last year. There are among 26 producer groups that grow tea under remarkably high labor and environmental standards, earning the right to be marketed as certified around the world. The premium paid by buyers goes into retirement funds and accounts to invest in clinics, schools and recreational facilities. These are controlled by democratically elected boards of workers on each estate. Even though it’s a small initiative, it still is a big step in promoting fair trade and protecting the rights of the workers.

Alicia said...

For those of you who are interested in the issue of Fair trade, there is a powerful documentary out called “Black Gold,” that documents the lives of Ethiopian coffee farmers and clearly demonstrates why all of us should be asking for Fair Trade coffee. The film was recently released in the theater but is now available to the public on DVD via California Newsreel. You can read more about the documentary or pick up a copy of it here at