Organic fair trade coffee is coffee that is grown organically, and also by a farmer who receives a fair price for his or her efforts.
Organic coffee, as the name implies, is coffee grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilizers. Choosing organic coffee frees farmers from working with harmful chemicals, and protects fragile mountain ecosystems and water supplies.
The issue of fair trade coffee is a little more complex.
Fair trade is about paying farmers a fair price for their labor.
There are two reasons to think about organic coffee in the context of fair trade.
1. After oil, coffee is the most traded commodity on the planet. This means that its price is determined in significant part by traders on Wall Street and other large trading centers. The farmers themselves have no control over the price they need, or can ask for.
While you and I have been paying more or less the same price for coffee over the last few years, the actual amount being paid to the farmers who grow it has been falling for most of that time.
2. Coffee grows only between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. In other words, it grows in parts of South America, parts of Africa, parts of Indonesia and a few other regions. Yes, it is grown in developing countries.
In fact approximately 60% of the world's coffee is grown by small farmers, many of whom are paid less that it costs them to grow the beans.
As discomforting as it may feel, the coffee we enjoy in our homes is grown and harvested by farmers in the South who are often caught in a cycle of poverty, debt and desperation.
To become Fair Trade certified, an importer must meet a number of strict international standards.
They must pay a minimum price per pound of $1.40 and provide credit to farmers. And if the fair trade coffee is grown organically, the amount paid increases.
In addition, they are obliged to provide technical assistance, such as helping farmers switch to sustainable farming practices.
It’s worth thinking about. When you buy organic fair trade coffee you are actively contributing to the betterment of someone’s life, and to his or her family and community.
At Coffee Detective we strongly support buying organic fair trade coffee, and believe it’s worth paying a little more to ensure that each cup of coffee we drink is doing some good, not harm.
Further reading that might interest you:
Learn more about the price of coffee...
Consider the contradiction of fair trade coffee in K-cups...
About the author: Nick Usborne, aka Coffee Detective, is a writer and long-time coffee enthusiast. Read more…
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