Fair Trade 4 U

At the Seattle Times, Melissa Allison and Amy Martinez report on the growing trend of “Direct Trade” coffees in the Northwest. We’ve whined in the past about Mainstream Media’s fair trade love-on and we’re pleased to see this thoughtful and informative article, in print, on both sides of the matter. This article screams “Mainstream Media Sprudgie Award 2010”.

Mark Barany of Kuma Coffee is interviewed:

“The whole reason Fair Trade started in the first place — farmers getting paid a fair price for their product — fell by the wayside,” said Barany, who thinks Fair Trade should raise its minimum prices above current, sky-high commodity prices for coffee.

He blames Fair Trade’s relationship with major corporations.

“They would have raised Fair Trade prices if it weren’t for the fact that Walmart and Target and all those companies are paying their bills,” he said.

TransFair founder Paul Rice is interviewed and is critical of uncertainty of Direct Trade:

Although Rice, of TransFair, thinks direct trade is “doomed to be small” because, he says, it cherry picks farms within cooperatives and does not have a verified standard, he acknowledges that its goal is the same as Fair Trade.

“If they prove themselves better at helping farmers than we are, then more power to them,” Rice said. “I hope they beat us.”

Read more at The Seattle Times