Our Fair Trade Standard
- We pay a minimum of $0.09/lb over and above the international Fair Trade price of all our coffees. Why?
- We purchase coffee only from producers who are on the FLO (Fair Trade Labeling Organization) registrar, or are waiting for application approval, or who fit the international guidelines for Fair Trade transparency.
- We and our other Cooperative Coffee members visit farmers annually.
- We always give farmers repeat business.
- Cooperative Coffees always offers farmers pre-financing to help them capitalize planting and harvesting (just like farmers in America nearly always require loans before growing season).
Fair Trade 101
WHAT IS IT?
Fair Trade is a way of doing business that builds equitable long-term partnerships between consumers and producers (as opposed to one party exploiting the other). It's especially relevant when there is a trade between farmers and craftspeople in the developing world and businesses in the West. Fair Trade principles include fair wages, environmental responsibility, sharing information, and respect for cultural identity.
FAIR TRADE AND COFFEE
The Fair Trade movement began with coffee because over 70% of the world's coffee comes from small family farmers who don't have trucks to transport their crop or access to the info about it's value. This places them at a huge competitive disadvantage with unprincipled buyers of their coffee.
We pay at least the International Fair Trade price or even higher for all of our coffees. We only purchase coffee from producers who are on the FLO registrar, or are waiting for application approval, or who fit the International guidelines for Fair Trade transparency. We and other members of Cooperative Coffees try to spend time at every one of our farm cooperatives. This ensures open communication which results in the dual benefit of better relationships and better beans. We always give farmers repeat business, ensuring a reliable income year to year. Every fair trade labeling claim we make is audited by Quality Certification Services (QCS).
Watch out! If a supplier can't show you documents that track payments all the way to each individual farmer, then chances are that's not where the money's going.
What Is Non-Fair Trade?
In essence, the world commodity market is at the core of an adversarial system that is lopsided in favor whoever is largest.
On one side, are corporations, importers and commodity traders with access to every possible set of data, from future pricing models to marketplace conditions.
On the other side are small farmers (over 70% of the world's specialty coffee comes from small family farms – there are 25 million small family farmers growing coffee) often living in remote mountainous regions (where the best coffee is grown) without access to accurate information about how much their coffee is actually worth on the market. The constant pressure to lower prices pushes farmers to make ever-increasing compromises to their traditional farming practices, using dangerous pesticides, chemical fertilizers and cutting down forest canopies.
It takes 40,000 lbs of coffee to fill a shipping container for export. A small family farm can only grow a fraction of that. And to get it to market, you need a truck, another asset beyond the reach of a small coffee farmer.
It's a winner-takes-most system. And the winner is rarely, if ever, the farmer.
IT STARTS WITH THE FARMERS: We first got into Fair Trade based on our respect and admiration for the farmers of the Mut Vitz cooperative (the first cooperative Larry visited). This led to Larry's Beans™ becoming a founding member of Cooperative Coffees, the first and still the only cooperative of independent coffee roasters in the U.S. importing coffee directly from Fair Trade cooperatives.