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Understanding Fair Trade coffee
We’ve talked before about just how much damage single use coffee cups have done (and are still doing) to our planet. But it’s not just the vessel itself that we have a social responsibility to improve – it’s the contents too.
Did you know?
- The majority of coffee is produced in developing nations, yet the majority of coffee is consumed in first world countries and economies that are industrialised
- Coffee is one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world
- Almost one third of the world’s coffee is produced in Brazil
- One fifth of the population of Ethiopia is reliant on coffee for their livelihood
- The UK is the 8th largest importer of coffee
Once we start to understand where our coffee actually comes from and where it usually ends up, it’s easy to see why sustainability, fair trade and ethical practices have to be part of every cup we drink. We’ve all heard the term ‘fair trade’, and what’s really encouraging is we’re seeing it more and more on coffee packaging in supermarkets and in high street coffee shops.
What started Fairtrade?
Like any internationally traded commodity, the coffee bean is subject to price volatility. Demand can go up and down, price can be impacted not just by availability but global economics, political changes and weather. Back in the late 1980’s coffee prices plunged and many of the small farmers found they weren’t able to sell their coffee for enough money to cover their running costs.
One of the reasons Fairtrade was set up was to make sure every farmer who wanted it, would be guaranteed a minimum fair price for their coffee. This minimum price would do more than just ensure their running costs were covered; it would ensure they knew exactly how much money they would get allowing them to plan ahead. It would also ensure there’d be enough money to invest in the future and make sure they had the tools and resources for next season too.
What does fair trade coffee actually mean?
According to fairtrade.org.uk, fair trade coffee means making sure the lives of people working on the coffee farms in developing countries have a right to a safe, fair and healthy working conditions. That they get a consistent and fair pay for their work and their produce and everyone is equal.
Around 70% of coffee farmers all around the world are small or independent farms – this means the other 30% comes from large scale coffee farms. Fair trade makes sure the larger farms can’t price the smaller farms out the market when something bad happens.
Every time you’re buying a coffee from a coffee shop or making your own at home and you choose to buy fair trade, you’re helping make sure somewhere out there, a farmer can keep their family housed, fed, educated and safe.