If you are new to Fair Trade, or quite understandably, are just still confused about what the big fuss is when people talk about the Fair Trade controversy, the “split in the movement”, or the betrayal of small coffee farmers, this very brief, compelling, an easy-to-follow article by Nicki Lisa Cole and Keith Brown should help clear away the clouds. Cole and Brown “interviewed fair trade store owners, coffeehouse managers and baristas, importers and exporters, coffee industry consultants, cooperative and movement leaders, farmers, artisans, and consumers,” and combine this with their own research and analysis to provide their account of what went wrong when Transfair USA (now Fair Trade USA) left the international Fair Trade system and begin certifying plantation coffee.
Sadly, the actions of Fair Trade USA now make it necessary for informed consumers to think twice when they take a Fair Trade certified product off the grocery shelf: Does this product support democratic small farmer organizations or large multinational companies & plantation owners?
Let us know what you think.
Many people purchase fair trade certified products because they trust that doing so makes a difference in the lives of small producers around the world. Sociologists Nicki Lisa Cole and Keith Brown discuss how changes to certification policy have modified the meaning of fair trade in a way that has troubling implications for small coffee farmers.
Cartoon courtesy of John Klossner. Copywrite 2012.