Fairtrade coffee: a direct link to producers and investment in quality

Fairtrade coffee beans

Fairtrade responds to inaccurate claims in Money Market magazine about Fairtrade coffee

In response to an article in Money Market magazine which included some inaccurate claims about Fairtrade coffee, Barbara Crowther, Fairtrade Foundation’s Director of Policy & Public Affairs said:

"Twenty years after the first Fairtrade certified goods went on sale in the UK, it is heartening that a growing number of consumer brands are eager to improve the lives of the farmers and workers who produce our coffee and cocoa, among other commodities.

"But contrary to some of the claims made in Money Market, the concept of providing a ‘direct link’ between the consumer and the producer is completely compatible with Fairtrade. In fact, Fairtrade coffee offers full traceability through the supply chain to a registered Fairtrade cooperative (or, in the case of Fairtrade certified micro-lot coffee, to specific farmers).

"Fairtrade producers receive a minimum price (or higher), which acts as a vital safety net and gives stability to plan for the future, but higher quality produce can and does attract higher prices – so there is an incentive to innovate and improve quality. Producers also earn a Fairtrade premium to invest in projects that will benefit their business or community, and coffee farmers must invest 25 per cent of this in product quality initiatives. 

"Over the years, many Fairtrade coffee producers have won Cup of Excellence awards and several Fairtrade retail products, including coffees from Bewley’s UK Grumpy Mule brand, Cafedirect, Wicked Coffee, Bailies Coffee Company, Percol, Tesco Finest and Asda Extra Special, have also won various taste awards – which is testament to the quality achieved.

"Many independent studies have shown that Fairtrade makes a tangible difference to the lives of 1.4 million farmers and workers across 70 countries, as well as their families and communities. For example, research in Uganda by Gottingen University found that farmer incomes on Fairtrade certified farms had risen by 30%. There are also several examples of producers using the Fairtrade premium to move into ‘value-added’ activities, such as the Manduvira co-operative of sugar farmers in Paraguay, who now own a sugar processing mill.

"Divine Chocolate, one of the pioneers of Fairtrade, is rightly highlighted by your reporter for the voice it gives to cocoa farmers, who now own 45% of the company. The same principle of producer empowerment is also at the heart of the Fairtrade movement itself, which is the only certification scheme to be 50% owned by producers.

"The Fairtrade Mark independently certifies that products meet economic, social and environmental standards, and as such it is the most trusted ethical mark among UK consumers. As a growing number of brands make ethical claims about their own products, there is good reason to believe that consumers will continue to value the assurance that an independent label brings."