“Even a bad cup of coffee is better than no coffee at all”
It is fair trade fortnight for a few more days and, in the Touchstone IAPT team in the Fairtrade City of Leeds, we have been inviting visitors to our offices to share a cup of freshly brewed fair trade coffee.
I am a daily black coffee drinker and I have long sympathised with the David Lynch quote at the top of this blog… but what is a bad cup of coffee? Is it a coffee with too much milk and sugar for your tastes? Is it a low-price jar of supermarket own brand? Or is it the jar of coffee in your office right now?
When you are shopping you may see the Fairtrade symbol on the products on the shelves* and from this symbol you can be assured that farmers were not only guaranteed a fair price for their crop which covered all the costs of production but that they also received a premium to invest in projects to benefit their communities (e.g. health care or education).
Most of the coffee in the world is produced by smallholder farmers (rather than on big plantations) and 60% of it comes from Brazil… But did you know that from the price of your usual coffee in shops and cafes, coffee pickers only make a small amount? – as little as 2% of the price you pay. Child labour and conditions comparable to slavery have long been observed in the industry with workers living and working in poor and sometimes illegal conditions, exposed to hazardous chemicals without protection.
Fairtrade products have been criticised for making consumers take responsibility for addressing inequality in trade – potentially paying higher prices or having to pressurise retailers to expand the goods and services they offer … However the Fairtrade Foundation also puts pressure on businesses and on governments in the UK and abroad to ensure that policies address forced labour, including children; gender equality; workers rights; access to finance and climate change. This will be important as our country leaves the EU (Brexit) and we make new trade agreements.
I guess what I am arguing is that if coffee improves your working life, let’s make sure that the coffee we buy improves other people’s working lives!
You can learn more about the experiences of workers making coffee for major international brands in the coffee industry through a report released in March 2016 by a Danish watchdog called Danwatch who monitored conditions in Brazil:
* The Fairtrade Foundation is now over 25 years old. It is a non-profit organisation created by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes with international charities such as Oxfam, Traidcraft, Global Justice Now and Christian Aid aiming to hep developing countries through trade rather than aid. There are other schemes like Rainforest Alliance that are committed to similar global social and environmental standards and recognise that paying a living wage to workers in the farming and food production industries is vital.​
Written by Geraldine Montgomerie-Greenwood