WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 06, 2016
Since many people don’t know exactly what Fairtrade coffee means and some even confuse it with certified coffee in general, I decided to speak a little bit more about it.
Fairtrade is probably the most well-known of the certifiers and the main reasons for that are due to its efforts in developing marketing campaigns, investing in communication about their projects and also since they were one of the first certifiers established.
When comparing Fairtrade’s regulations and requirements with the other certifiers, there are several similarities; Fairtrade’s Standards assures pretty much the same aspects that the others do and can even be considered more or less strict than some of them depending on the aspect focused. Of course they have particularities, as every certifier does and in the case of Fairtrade the biggest focus is given to social aspects.
The big difference of Fairtrade is: Although in principal all other certifiers help farmers sell their coffee for higher prices, since they can aggregate some value to the product or help them save costs with better management practices, these price premiums are not officially regulated and are dependent on market prices but Fairtrade is the only certifier that assures a minimum price on its official regulations so that certified farmer cooperatives will get a minimum price for their coffee. This premium is calculated and updated by the organization and is supposed to cover production costs but when this price is smaller than market price, buyers have to pay the official market price. The premium paid from buyers also includes a percentage that should be used by cooperatives to make investments to improve farmers’ lives and these investments allocations are decided through an Assembly.
Regarding producer payments, it is a little challenging because these cooperatives are the ones that have to distribute the premium to the individual producers and most of the time cooperatives have a big number of members so it is tricky to assure every farmer is getting fairly paid but at least the cooperative investments are checked in the Audits and members are supposed to decide together how it will be invested.
Of course, this is a very short description of the program and its main characteristics BUT what is also important to understand is that coffee farmers will only be able to sell their coffee as Fairtrade if there is demand for it and since certified coffee supply usually surpasses demand, it not always happens that way so they end up selling it as mainstream coffee for regular prices. Actually, the same thing happens to all the certifiers but since Fairtrade’s main principal is to generate fair payments it is a relevant factor to be mentioned. Still the concept of the program is not perfect and has other positive and negative aspects to be considered but it’s quite valid, since it aims to bring some stability for coffee producers who are always dependent on market volatile prices.
Anyway, the main purpose of this article and the previous one is not to judge if certifications, or specifically Fairtrade certification, are good or bad. The objective is simply to expose facts and explain differences. I hope it clarified a little bit
ItCafé began as a Coffee brand and transformed into a forum for sharing research and experiences related to coffee and especially sustainability in the Coffee Supply Chain.