WEST BRIDGEWATER, MA―May 20, 2012―In a rare business-to-business plea Equal Exchange has released an open letter to Larry Blanford, the CEO of fellow New England specialty coffee company, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) in the form of a full-page color ad in today’s Sunday edition of the Burlington Free Press (Vermont) that strongly encourages the multi-billion dollar brand to withdraw its support from the controversial certification agency, Fair Trade USA (FTUSA).
Ooh, girl, drama. More from the Burlington Free Press:
FTUSA President and CEO Paul Rice said expanding the market for fair trade products will help all farmers. He cited the case of an estate in Brazil that recently began using the fair trade label on coffee it sells to the Whole Foods chain for its Allegro brand. The Fair trade coffee that carries the “social premium” of 20 cents a pound could now go both to the estate and to small farmers that also provide coffee for Allegro.
Workers on the estate voted to put the roughly $15,000 they earned from the premium toward eye exams and glasses for those among their number who needed them.
“The notion that co-ops should have exclusive access to our markets is just wrongheaded from a marketing perspective,” Rice said.
Rodney North, spokesman for Equal Exchange, was not impressed with the Allegro example. He argued that new sales of that brand to “committed Fair Trade shoppers” merely would take market share away from the co-ops where their previous coffee was coming from.