Archive for December, 2011

With Fair Trade experiencing monumental change in the past few months, committed stakeholders in N. America have started a dialogue initiative to clarify the direction for the Fair Trade movement in N. America with the goal of upholding its benefits for marginalized producers around the world.

The initiative, called the N. America Fair Trade Stakeholder Council, will begin with around 40-50 nonprofits, advocacy organizations, committed companies, producer/farmer/ worker groups, academics and others, who will hold conference calls and email discussions over several months before attending an in-person summit April 30 – May 2, 2012. Fair Trade Resource Network (FTRN), Fair World Project (FWP), and Domestic Fair Trade Association (DFTA) comprise the Organizing Committee leading the initiative.

At present, the Council seeks to advance these 4 goals:

  • Define fair trade and the movement, what they are and what they are not
  • Organize the North American fair trade movement under a coordinated infrastructure with a common vision
  • Reach agreement on a plan for cooperation and accountability within the movement
  • Develop a clear external message for the movement

As the Council gets more organized and gains more momentum, it intends to periodically share its major ideas & highlights with the public, and to occasionally invite public comment. In balancing efficiency with inclusiveness and transparency, the Council intends to maintain open, clear and transparent communication channels with stakeholders in other organizations, as well as other producer and consumer regions, to collaborate as much as possible.

For a list of Council participants and information about how non-participants can get involved, please click here.

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Coffee lovers now rewarded for being disloyal.


BOSTON/CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts – Dec. 7, 2011 – Coffee slingers of Boston are uniting to celebrate the city’s incredible café landscape and the art of brewing up high-quality artisanal coffee.

This winter, eight independently owned cafés are joining together to launch Boston’s first disloyalty card program. It’s similar to a customer loyalty card, except that customers are encouraged to visit other businesses. The idea is to build support for local, independent shops in a city dominated by national coffee chains and to inspire coffee enthusiasts to explore Boston’s growing coffee culture.

“Each café in the program brings a unique perspective to the world of specialty coffee and specialty cafés,” said Leif Rawson-Ahern, manager of the Equal Exchange Café in Boston and organizer of the disloyalty program. “Each has its own energy and atmosphere, making for an exciting and eclectic experience.”

The initiative came out of discussions between managers at Equal Exchange Café and City Feed & Supply in Jamaica Plain. “We get to share our excitement about Boston’s burgeoning coffee scene with our customers – and hopefully, serve up a pleasant surprise for some folks who don’t yet know our shop,” said Sam Archer, manager at City Feed & Supply’s Boylston Street location.

Here’s how it works. Starting on Dec. 15, 2011, the eight cafés will begin distributing disloyalty cards to their customers. The customers will have until March 15, 2012, to receive a stamp from each of the cafés when they purchase a drink. After the card is complete, they can redeem it for a free drink at any of the participating cafés.

The disloyalty card concept was first launched in London by Gwilym Davies, the 2009 World Barista Champion. Similar programs have popped up in the U.S., in Seattle and San Francisco. Rawson-Ahern said the initiative to launch a disloyalty program here in Boston has had overwhelming support and enthusiasm.

“We’re excited and proud to be joining up with other independent cafés – it feels like we are all part of a community.” said Andrew LoPilato, general manager at Pavement in Boston.

2011 Participating Cafés














295 3RD ST.












For more information, contact:

Leif Rawson-Ahern

226 Causeway Street

Boston, MA 02114

Tel: 617.372.8777



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Press Release

Marisol Espinoza Cruz, Vice President, Peru and Santiago Paz, Co-Manager, CEPICAFE Coffee Co-op

More than 233 families from Coyona, in the Canchaque district of Huancabamba Province, have achieved one of their objectives. They have put into operation, the recently inaugurated Wet Processing Coffee Plant, which will enable them to process the coffee produced in this area of the Piuran zone of the Sierras.

The project belongs to the “Jose Gabriel Condorcanque” Agrarian Coffee Cooperative in Coyona, an organization that forms part of the Piuran Organization of Small Coffee Growers (CEPICAFE). The project received 247 thousand soles in financing from Agroemprende, “but there was also a $37,900.00 contribution from Equal Exchange, which will be used to buy organic fertilizers. This is a great achievement for the cooperative, for its members and also for CEPICAFE” explained Santiago Paz, CEPICAFE’s co-manager.

The processing plant includes a climate controlled area for the coffee, a quality control laboratory, and areas for equipment and other tool which will greatly help them to better meet the producers´ needs.

The cooperative, presided over by Artemio Jimenez Huaman, has 233 members and approximately 323 hectares of coffee cultivation which annually produce 2 thousand one-hundred pound sacks of coffee.

Marisol Espinoza ratifies support

During the processing plant´s inauguration, the Vice President of the Republic, Marisol Espinoza Cruz, emphasized the producers´ unity and hard work, saying:  “I reaffirm my commitment to continue supporting small farmers:  coffee growers, cacao, banana and mango growers. You must keep moving forward, and with the support and backing from Congress and from the Vice President´s office, we are going to carry out this work together”.

Also present at the plant´s inauguration were functionaries from Agroemprende and local mayors.

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On December 7th, Francisco VanDerhoff Boersma, co-founder of the first fair trade certifying body, Max Havelaar, and the renowned small farmer co-operative in Mexico, UCIRI (Union of Indigenous Communities of the Region of Isthmus)  submitted the following extremely important proclamation from the Mexican Coordinator of Small Fair Trade Producers as a comment on our earlier blog post,  “Who Owns Fair Trade?”  Due to its importance, I’ve taken the liberty to have it translated from Spanish and am posting it here.  The proclamation expresses the sentiments we hear from Fair Trade small farmer organizations throughout the Global South.  I hope you’ll take the time to read the views expressed here.

Public Pronouncement

The situation created by Fairtrade USA separating from FLO

December 2, 2011

Tuxtla, Gutierrrez, Chiapas, Mexico

On December 2, 2011,  the Mexican Coordinator of Small Fair Trade Producers held their General Assembly in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas. The “Mexican Coordinator” is made up of 40 small organizations, producers of coffee, honey and other products, from a dozen Mexican states bringing together 25 thousand small producer families. The “Mexican Coordinator” also forms part of the “Latin American and Caribbean Small Fair Trade Producers’ Coordinator”, CLAC.

As part of the “Mexican Coordinator” Assembly’s agenda, we analyzed the recent separation of Fairtrade USA from the FLO system, the new direction that Fairtrade USA has taken and FLO International’s, and other fair trade actors’, reactions.

The Small Producer Organizations of Fair Trade coffee, honey and other products have come to the following conclusions:

1 – In the first place, we are upset by Fairtrade USA’s decision to distance itself from the idea that fair trade is an alternative trade model that benefits small producers and sustainable, self-managed and democratic development. The “Fair Trade for All” model adopted by Fairtrade USA, in our opinion, is no more than a neo-liberalization of Fair Trade. For that reason, we deeply regret that Fairtrade USA has definitively turned its back on the Fair Trade movement’s original principals and on the same small producer organizations that gave Fairtrade USA its strength;  Fairtrade USA lacks political consciousness about the present neoliberal model’s crisis. The neoliberal market model is in full crisis and we have the responsibility to construct another model: democratic and fair for all, including fair to our planet.

2 – With “Fair trade for All”, Fairtrade USA is putting small producer organizations’ future participation in the U.S. market in direct danger, initiating the certification of private plantations and allowing the certification of small unorganized producers. The United States’ market is very important for many small producer organizations in Mexico and unfair competition can have a serious impact on them.  Now that Fairtrade USA has separated from FLO International, and therefore does not have to respect their rules, we fear they will lower the minimum price for coffee and other products, as they tried to do on many occasions in the FLO system. A basic Fair Trade principal is that a product´s price should cover the costs of sustainable production and democratic organization. Private plantations and unorganized small producers have lower costs than small producer organizations that respect the principles of democracy and equity through their obligations and social practices.

3 – Also we have never seen, nor are we now seeing, that Fairtrade USA has authentic representative participation by the Small Producer Organizatons in its decision making structures. For that reason we cannot even hope that this system’s new rules and criteria will take into account our organization’s concerns, needs and proposals.

4 – This separation is causing a lot of confusion and worry in the fair trade and responsible consumer movement, and among fair trade buyers in the United States. Many feel disillusioned and betrayed by Fairtrade USA and some have made public statements. Others regret the division and are taking sides with one of the seals, or not with either, not because they like one more but because of necessity. We believe that this abrupt division is generally affecting Fair Trade’s prestige and its political and economic clarity.

5 – FLO International has reacted to Fairtrade USA’s separation by defending the fact that with some products, like coffee and honey, private plantations are not certified nor is production by contract permitted. We agree with this defense and we believe that this new attitude by FLO International should serve to revise the whole FLO system so that it returns to its social and political origins which is the creation of a Different Market. We believe that Fairtrade USA’s separation obliges FLO International to take this opportunity to make real adjustments and return to the path that we have built as small producer organizations with so much effort and during so many years together with conscious consumers, solidarity businesses and also many people within FLO’s system of different National Initiatives that are committed to small producers and fair trade as a different market.

In our General Assembly we have shared aspects of the current problem that small producers and their organizations are experiencing, for example:

1 – We have to fight hard against big corporations’ unfair practices that increasingly control the markets. Unfortunately, these practices also exist within the fair trade market. Sadly we have seen big corporations obtain large government subsidies which strengthens their dominant position in the field, practically ruining long term organizational efforts.

2 – We have had to confront high market prices which create a financial problem for small producer organizations trying to secure enough accessible credit. There is not enough available financing and financial costs and risks are high.  Big corporations take advantage of these moments to weaken our organizations and disarticulate small producers thus strengthening their almost absolute control of production.

3 – The increase in petroleum prices and the cost of the basic food basket have made production costs and the cost of living go up.  An increase in our products’ prices does not necessarily translate to a good quality of life.

4 – We have struggled with new technological barriers for entering the market, as in the case of honey, where we have had to build new and complex processing plants with safety certifications so that the honey could access different markets.

5 – We are completely outraged by governments’ authorization, among others the Mexican government’s, for planting genetically modified crops on a large scale which inevitably contaminates our products, for example honey, in our country. As producers we have always struggled against the use of genetically modified crops in order to care for our planet’s eco-system, to protect native crops, to assure our producers’ and consumers’ health and to avoid dependence on transnationals that produce and patent genetically modified crops. This contamination means that, in the future, we cannot guarantee that our products will not have (slight) traces of genetically modified material.

6 – Finally, all producers are being faced with the consequences of climate change, in our production as well as in our communities. We have suffered floods, landslides, excessive rainfall and drought, new plagues that affect our family security as well as the quality and consistency of our production and therefore our income.

For all we have mentioned above we make an energetic call to the whole Fair Trade and Sustainable Production Movement that the struggle and division among seals not distract us from the small producers’ real problems.

As small producers we need prices that cover production costs and environmental measures, we need a truly fair economy so that producers can continue to work for a dignified life and can continue to safe-guard the environment as well as guarantee healthy products for the world population.

Our small producer organizations can only move forward with authentic fair trade and sustainable or organic production. We are doing, and will do, all that is within our reach, without resting, so that consumers and solidarity businesses continue to join our cause. We know that we have many allies in this struggle and we are sure that together we will accomplish our mission.

In the name of the General Assembly,

Hugo Reyes Alvarado

President of the Directive Council

The Mexican Coordinator of Small Fair Trade Producers, A.C.

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A few days ago, we received the following good news from our friends at CEPICAFE, a small coffee farmer co-op in Peru, and a long-standing partner of Equal Exchange:

Two Peruvian projects, one from Piura and the other from Tingo Maria, winners of the ProClimate Challenge in the best practices regarding climate adaptation and mitigation, received their awards this morning in the city of Piura, having competed with 43 proposals from 12 countries around the world.

Held at the College of Engineers, the Piura Mountains Reforestation Project received the award.  This project is executed by CEPICAFE, the Norandino Coop and Progreso and is located in the town of Choco, Yamango district, Morropon province.  It won the award in the coffee category since it is carried out in a coffee-producing zone and requires high-quality water and the best possible climatic conditions.

Santiago Paz Lopez, manager of the Norandino Cooperative that is part of the Central Piruana de Cafetaleros, CEPICAFE  (Piura Coffee Growers Association) received the $2,500 prize.  “When our producer organization was started we had no resources, but we have achieved a lot.  Now we have won this prize, which belongs to the producers.  They needed a lot of support in order to start this kind of project.  The Norandino Cooperative is part of the producers that make up CEPICAFE and, together with other organizations from northern Peru, we are promoting the export of products such as cacao, coffee, raw sugar and fruit, all of which are quality products with an important consumer demand around the world,” said Santiago Paz.

The project encompasses 264 hectares, 224 of which need to be reforested.  This project will be executed through the year 2035 and its goal is to produce 42,784 tons of carbon. “In this area up to 600 hectares could be reforested, but we are also looking at the possibility of expanding to other mountainous areas and as much as 10,000 hectares could be reforested,” he said.

Rocio Leon, Project Coordinator, said that the Challenge has shown appreciation for projects in the highlands that are combining reforestation with carbon capture because this is something that generates better production for the farmers in the highlands and improves water availability in the coffee-growing zone.

The project is being developed at an altitude of 2,700 to 3,000 meters above sea level on community-owned land in the hamlets of Choco, Alto Huancabamba, Huambiche and Sargento Lorez and currently benefits 325 families.


  • The Progreso Network and ProClimate and Hivos from Holland organized the ProClimate Challenge in the best practices regarding climate adaptation and mitigation.
  • The Piura Mountains Reforestation Project is certified by Rainforest Alliance and by the Carbon Fix Standard v3.0; it is also registered with Markit Environmental.
  • The local community members that execute the project are also project participants and full owners of their own farms.
  • The Piura Mountains Reforestation Project is the first organization in the world in which an organization of small producers has been able to sell carbon credits in the voluntary market.  It is currently selling carbon to companies in England and Ireland that are part of CEPICAFE’s client network.
  • In addition to the Norandino Coop, CEPICAFE and Progreso, other organizations that participate in the project include Agronomos Sin Fronteras (Agronomists Without Borders), Veterinarians Without Borders, Forest Sense and Just Green.

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The following Action Alert was written by our friends at Fair World Project on November 28, 2011.

Take Action! Send a letter to Fair Trade USA, Fairtrade International and IMO and urge them to continue supporting small coffee farmers by not certifying plantation coffee.

Fair Trade USA  (formerly TransFair USA) and its new initiative, Fair Trade For All,  aims to expand fair trade certification to include coffee plantations.  “Fair Trade for All” has been a major point of contention in Fair Trade USA’s split from Fairtrade International (FLO).  For more on the Fair Trade USA/FLO split, see Fair World Project’s (FWP) statement. Putting aside the secretive and unilateral nature of the initiative, certifying coffee plantations has a number of critical problems.

Small producers and democratic cooperatives are core to the founding principles of the fair trade movement and market.  By definition, small producers are vulnerable, excluded and under resourced in the global market. In the coffee sector, small farmers produce approximately 70% of the global coffee supply. Despite the current high prices in the coffee market, fair trade coops are still unable to sell the majority of their coffee under fair trade terms. Expanding fair trade certification and market access to large-scale plantations will assure that fair trade cooperatives continue to remain vulnerable to volatile international markets and undermine 25 years of fair trade development.

Fair Trade vs Fair Labor

“Fair Trade for All” unfortunately is becoming a divisive issue, pitting small producers against farmworkers. Prominent farmworker leaders have endorsed the initiative, despite the overwhelming rejection of Fair Trade for All from fair trade producer networks, the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) and United Students for Fair Trade. No one in the fair trade movement denies that farmworkers at home and abroad need support and market solidarity. There are infinite examples of deplorable working conditions for agricultural workers in every sector. The question is whether “fair trade” is the appropriate model for addressing hired labor in agricultural contexts. FLO has certified fair trade plantations in a number of specific product categories, like tea and bananas, despite resistance from small producer groups and Aternative Trade Organizations.  Fair trade has a mixed record on plantations and hired labor operations, including the tea and banana sector. Complicating matters further, coffee plantation workers are largely seasonal workers, with many workers not returning to the same plantation where they’ve worked the season prior. Assuring that the social premium in fact benefits these workers and that the workplace is operated democratically in the absence of a workers association or union is challenging at best. Perhaps “Fair Labor” certification is a more appropriate approach to supporting farm workers, while keeping fair trade standards, impacts and expectations intact.

“Fair Labor” certification assures a safe workplace, equitable wages and adherence to labor laws. A far labor certification is far more appropriate for hired labor scenarios, as it and does not dilute fair trade as a standard, nor a concept. In fact, there are several existing fair labor 3rd party certifiers and standards, including Scientific Certification Services Fair Labor program and IMO’s “For Life” program. Or might certifiers look to an effective model adopted by anti-sweatshop advocates that include a code of conduct and monitored by an organization like the Workers Rights Consortium.

Voting with our dollars

FTUSA has stated that coffee from fair trade cooperatives and “fair trade” plantations will be virtually identical to consumers, bearing the same “Fair Trade Certified” mark. Indeed, FTUSA does not currently distinguish between small farmer coops and plantations for tea and bananas. Small coffee producers will have no way of distinguishing their product in a meaningful way when compared to plantation coffee, which will be presumably sold at a lower price, given that large-scale plantation operations can take advantage of economies of scale, market access and existing capacity.  Plantations and estates already have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.  Similarly, consumers wishing to continue supporting small farmers and coops will be unable to simply “look for the label.”

Small is Indeed Beautiful

Paul Rice recently stated in an interview, “In our view, small is not beautiful.” FTUSA’s “Fair Trade for All” claims to be innovating the fair trade model, but appears to be responding primarily to the demands of large coffee roasters and importers, like Green Mountain and Starbucks, not the needs and realities of coffee producers on the ground. According to FTUSA’s most recent audited financials, Green Mountain and Starbucks account for approximately one-third of FTUSA’s lincensee revenues, not to mention are major donors to FTUSA. Taking a step back, history, not to mention existing data, demonstrate that real sustainability is small, but with a big impact. Small farmers form the backbone of not only the global food supply, but are central players in safeguarding biodiversity, fostering environmental stewardship and innovating sustainable agricultural practices. According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, small farmers hold the key to doubling food production while mitigating climate change and alleviating rural poverty. Similarly, Via Campesina, the global movement of millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, has demonstrated that small farmers can address the global food crisis, in a far more equitable and sustainable way than agribusiness and large-scale farming.

Fair trade veteran advocates, including the Organic Consumers Association, and its recently launched Fair World Project (FWP), have long agitated and encouraged large roasters like Starbucks to source more fair trade coffee. Deepening and expanding the positive impact of fair trade to more small producers is central to our mission. Assuring however, that impact is equitable, sustainable and democratic remains the lynchpin in FWP’s approach to fair trade. We are encouraged by the interest of large, conventional manufacturers, roasters and importers in fair trade. However, strengthening, not diluting, the model at this crossroads in the movement to incorporate these powerful players is the challenge.

Stepping back even further, FTUSA’s recent actions largely reflect a crisis in governance and dysfunctional operating infrastructure.  Had FTUSA’s board of directors truly reflected the constellation of voices and perspectives in the fair trade movement (including producers, advocates, ATOs, students, etc.), we doubt that Fair Trade For All would have provoked such widespread condemnation. FTUSA would have been a better steward of fair trade had it surveyed the fair trade community as a whole prior to moving forward with its plans to certify for large-scale plantations in an inclusive and transparent process, rather than request comments on the initiative after the fact. If FTUSA choses to enter the global system as an independent and reputable certifier, it must establish transparent and effective mechanisms for stakeholder engagement, and be accountable to that process. Abandoning its plans to certify coffee plantations would be a positive first step in righting the course.

FTUSA is moving forward with “fair trade” certification of coffee plantations in 2012. IMO’s Fair for Life standards are scale neutral and allows for certification of hired labor operations in any sector, though IMO has yet to certify coffee plantations.  Fairtrade International (FLO) does not currently certify coffee plantations, though is under pressure to expand plantation certification to coffee and other sectors.

Take Action! Send a letter to Fair Trade USA, Fairtrade International and IMO and urge them to continue supporting small coffee farmers by not certifying plantation coffee.

Fair Trade Organizations, Stores, Companies: Sign-on by sending an email to ryan@fairworldproject.org

cartoon by John Klossner, copywrite 2011

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With January just around the corner, how many of  you were aware that the United Nations has designated 2012 as the International Year of the Co-operative?

At Equal Exchange, we’ve been shouting the merits of co-operatives ever since we were founded.  As a 100% Fair Trade organization, buying all of our products from democratically-run cooperatives and associations of small farmers, doesn’t it make sense that we would extend our firm belief in the co-operative’s form of ownership and governance to our own workplace?  In today’s world of expanded corporate power and the ensuing results that are causing so much economic disparity and injustice, isn’t it well-beyond time to actively promote co-operatives as a viable alternative economic model?

Check out this really fun 2-minute video explaining the co-op difference produced by a member of the National Coop Business Association (NCBA), CCA Global Partners. Thanks to Becca Koganer at Equal Exchange and Melanie Madden of the Davis Food Co-op for sharing it with us!

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