What is Fair Trade?

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If you’ve ever heard the term Fair Trade Coffee, you likely wondered what they’re talking about. It’s not a type or brand of coffee, and you can’t buy it in a can, a bag, or in bulk. Fair Trade Coffee simply means that that particular coffee has been grown and marketed to a specific set of standards. The certification logo or brand names found on Fair Trade Coffee come in coffees that are a little pricier than others, but tastes better and also is designed to help coffee growers in Third World countries. Growing numbers of coffee retail stores around the world are now offering Fair Trade Coffees.

One of the largest certifications, Fair Trade USA, is overseen by Fair Trade International. Basically, a Fair Trade certification or label on your coffee implies that the coffee growers or packers in the world’s richer countries have paid ‘fair trade’ or a small fee in order to use the Fair Trade logo. The logo offers consumers greater assurance that the coffee meets certain criteria in regard to growing and production, and that it was grown by farmers who belong to a cooperative that uses a minimum of pesticides and herbicides, doesn’t use or rely on child labor, and the exporters of such coffee are paid fair amounts for their coffee.

Fair Trade Coffee is still not that well known throughout the United States, but is growing in popularity in other countries around Europe. At any rate, when it comes to the coffee farmers, they have to meet a variety of stipulations regarding production. They have to abide by limits on the amount of pesticides and herbicides they use, observe limitations on utilizing child labor, and in the creation of a genetically modified product. Of course, this makes growing their coffee a little more labor-intensive, and in many cases, farmers can no longer rely on family to help with the coffee production due to the child labor specification, so in most cases, these farmers are likely just breaking even. For example, in Nicaragua, many farmers, due to encouragement from Fair Trade, have switched to producing organic coffees, which will offer them a higher price per pound of sale. However, the downside to this is a lower net income because such coffee produces lower yields and requires higher costs of production.

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