4 thoughts on “Farmers Question Fair Trade Coffee’s Merits

  1. Mike Haskins says:

    That article was very informative, thank you Michelle. I’ve heard theoretical critiques of fair trade along these lines coming from staunch libertarians (some of my best friends are staunch libertarians <3), but I've never heard anyone who is actually in touch with local coffee growers explain the situation in that light. It makes me worry about the ever so trendy idea of corporate responsibility. Portraying support of social justice or environmental causes in advertising campaigns as if it is a sacrifice for the company in the name of the common good when it is really a calculated short term loss in exchange for a long term gain in under-informed but socially or environmentally conscientious customers at the expense of the local farmers, producers, etc. that the company, through its advertising campaign, purports to empower sounds strikingly similar to corporate exploitation if you ask me. (Run on sentence completed.)

    • That’s a really good point Mike – now that corporate responsibility has become so trendy, people really have to sift through all the claims and distinguish between genuine initiatives and marketing ploys. Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Justin Scott says:

    Great piece Michelle! I thoroughly enjoyed reading that post. I understand fair trade has its flaws and I know there are many ways for it to improve that are not being implemented. It does have a long way to go. I think fair trade does need to learn to be recognised rather as a floor price, not a market price for coffee. I think coffee producers should get a minimum price for their efforts, if only to ensure they are not exploited by cost-cutting corporates. But there needs to be a system in place that recognises higher quality producers, so that they are rewarded for their extra time and effort as they should be. In instances like As Green As it Gets’ it is definitely not fair to expect the producers to become fair trade certified and thus accept a lower wage.

    I think is is important to understand that there are farmers that may treat the fair trade price as a gift, and not work harder. They will continue to produce poor (low-quality) coffee, and still receive that basic price. But eventually, they will lose out, because they will be recognised as the poor quality version, and the producer who is producing high-quality beans will win. It will take time, but I think fair trade at least limits the number of producers that are exploited due to their desperate situation.

    The most important aspect of fair trade is that it gives the movement, towards ethical consumption, a name. This lets people become advocates of ethical consumption, something to talk about, something to support, something to stand up and shout for. This gives the movement power, and direction, and a standard to live by, talk about, and defend. This is the benefit of fair trade above all else. In a consumer driven economy, giving consumers something to talk about, and support, is what will give the movement momentum, what will make the change permanent. Fair Trade will not be permanent, because eventually the day will come where “fair trade”, the label, will no longer be required. Consumers will automatically know that their products will be made fairly, ethically and respectably. Because any company not doing so, will be boycotted by society and will not survive.

    Check out my blog at http://justinryanscott.com/ or follow me on twitter @justinvitallink

  3. […] out these reader comments Justin Scott made on a previously posted GO Blog piece about improvements needed in the fair trade coffee system. The GO Blog is always looking for commentary by Fordham readers, so be sure to send in your […]

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