Our friend Kyle Freund at Coffee Kids revives some of the still-on-going debate over Fair Trade. As coffee companies develop more sustainable models of trading coffee fairly, the Johnny-Don’t-Know Nothin’s and Melissa Allison’s of the world will continue to pen well-read “Only Fair Trade Is Fair” articles for mainstream media outlets. The results can be seen at a cafe near you; NPR-listening, Mother Jones-subscribing, canvas tote carrying customers who grab blindly at anything with a Fair Trade certification sticker attached, but who don’t or can’t or won’t learn about far more sustainable, equitable models, the likes of which are being pioneered today by George Howell, Duane Sorenson, and Andrew Brewtbart.
The Fair Trade brand is still alive and well, and so the conversation regarding Fair Trade labels and practices continues. For a little bit of context, we’re glad to link to some source materials; the infamous Geoff Watts e-mail (Watts is the green buyer for Chicago-based Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea) that still provokes discussion today, nearly 4 full years later:
In my opinion, the Fair Trade brand / model works alright for commercial quality coffee and for one might term “entry-level” specialty. Once one gets into extremely specific, ultra-high quality coffees it begins to falter because it was not designed to deal with them. Fair Trade is, essentially, a one-size-fits-all blanket program that is applied to an incredibly diverse range of different coffee farmers across the world…the fact that it the FT price has been $1.26 for more than fifteen years and is the same for every farmer whether he/she lives in Peru, Rwanda, Sulawesi, Costa Rica, or El Salvador makes little sense.
Let’s pick back up on the discussion in 2010. From the CoffeeKids blog:
Paying a more equitable price is great, but it’s just not enough. Supporting efforts like those of Coffee Kids’ partners extends the reach of Fair Trade and makes a true difference. Learn more about our program partners here. And if you would like to support development in coffee-farming communities, please contribute.