Organic Coffee Farmers and The Fair Trade Act
Does The Fair Trade Act Really Work For The Small Organic Coffee Farmer?
Organic coffee farms are struggling to survive. To the small farmer raising the beans has been a losing business for them for years. Conditions are rough, since all organic coffee is mountain grown. No machines are used. They have to carry heavy bags of fertilizer(organic) and lime for the soil up a steep mountain side. Once the beans are harvested you have to carry them up the mountain. Coffee is the world’s second most valuable traded commodity, after oil, and the money it brings in is nothing. It’s not enough for the farmers to live on. They have been doing this for years and just keep getting deeper in debt.
Most of the small farmers only know how to grow coffee. they don’t have a lot of choices for jobs. Fair trade was supposed to help them. This world wide campaign was to help by paying them higher-than-market prices for coffee. Along the way, it has recruited retail giants like Starbucks, which is the globe’s largest purchaser of Fair Trade — certified coffee.
But is Fair Trade really helping them? In a private survey last year of approximately 180 Fair Trade coffee farmers in Central America and Mexico, more than half said their families have still been going hungry for several months a year. What the buyer thinks Fair Trade is accomplishing is far from the actual result. Fair Trade pays approximately $1.50 per lb. That is about 10 cents more that average. The sad thing is that they have to pay for the co op fees, certifications, taxes and supplies for the farm. By the end of the year a farmer that grows a few thousand pounds will pocket about $1,000 for that year, or $2.75 a day. That’s not enough for the cheapest latte. Without Fair Trade, the farmers couldn’t make it. However Fair Trade prices “haven’t kept up” with the costs small farmers face. They need more money to survive or the small coffee farmers are going to be a thing of the past.