Friday, November 1, 2002
Green Corner Fair Trade coffee: an update
"Fair Trade" coffee is coffee sold by a few small companies committed to paying farmers a fair price — one that covers costs and is stable. These companies buy coffee directly from small-scale farmers, mostly in Latin America and Africa, eliminating middlemen and guaranteeing a floor price. Another benefit is that fair trade coffee is grown using environmentally sustainable farming practices: it is usually shade-grown (protecting the tropical rain forests), and organic.
Recently, the main concerns with the coffee trade have become social and economic, not just environmental. According to Oxfam America, "The price of coffee has plummeted 70% on the world market since 1997, resulting in a widespread humanitarian crisis for 25 million coffee growers in over 50 developing countries." The four giant coffee companies continue to make large profits while paying coffee farmers less than the cost of production. While a cup of coffee at a retail shop costs $3, the price paid to the farmer is less than one cent. Oxfam America has developed a Coffee Rescue Plan that encourages coffee companies to pay farmers a decent price and helps correct the imbalance between supply and demand (see www.oxfamamerica.org).
What can a consumer do? Buying fair trade certified coffee is a start. Three well-known fairly traded coffees are Equal Exchange (available locally at Donelan's and Crosby's markets), Allegro (available at Bread & Circus), and Green Mountain. Whenever possible, ask for fair trade coffee at work, church, or coffee shops. Visit www.newdream.org/faith/coffee.html or call 1-301-891-3683 to get a free one pound trial bag of Equal Exchange coffee for your church. The First Religious Society in Carlisle now serves Equal Exchange coffee exclusively.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito