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March 29, 2020 2 min read

Does Anyone Else Follow the Fair Trade Coffee Model?

We have written about both UTZ and Rainforest Alliance. Both of these organizations follow a plan similar to that of Fair Trade. They teach small coffee growers how to farm better and they help the farmer get a better price for his or her coffee. These organizations are also concerned about child labor practices and childhood education. Both of them also deal with a wide variety of food products and not just coffee.


Rainforest Alliance has a system similar to the Fair Trade coffee approach to supporting small farmers

Rainforest Alliance


Where Does the Money Go with Fair Trade Coffee?

Fair Trade coffee is a wonderful idea but does this system achieve its stated goals? An article in The Guardian discussed not so fair trade. It wonders if enough of the money brought in by Fair Trade prices goes back to farmers in developing countries.

Economist Paul Collier argues that Fairtrade effectively ensures that people “get charity as long as they stay producing the crops that have locked them into poverty”. Fairtrade reduces the incentive to diversify crop production and encourages the utilisation of resources on marginal land that could be better employed for other produce. The organisation also appears wedded to an image of a notional anti-modernist rural idyll. Farm units must remain small and family run, while modern farming techniques (mechanisation, economies of scale, pesticides, genetic modification etc) are sidelined or even actively discouraged.

Part of the problem is that they need to sell Fair Trade coffee at a bit of a premium in order send money back to farmers. But the advertising and promotional costs cut into available revenues. There appears to be a tightrope that these folks need to walk in order to fulfill their mission.

Where Can You Get Fair Trade Coffee?

One easy place to try a cup of Fair Trade coffee is your local Starbucks. 100% of their espresso roast is Fair Trade coffee. However, Starbucks is not 100% Fair Trade. Rather they say that their coffee is “ethically sourced.”

An offshoot organization in the USA is Fair Trade America. Their website lists where you can get Fair Trade coffee. These sources include both coffee shops where you can walk in for a cup and online sources as well. A competing USA organization is Fair Trade USA. They have a similar set up and purpose.


Fair Trade America provides Fair Trade coffee to customers and benefits to its coffee farmers

Fair Trade America Logo

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