Consumer Retorts: Fair Trade Coffee

Is fair trade coffee really fair to the farmer?

CONSUMER RETORTS

Fair Trade Coffee

Is it really fair to the farmer?

fair trade coffee costs more because its farmers are paid more, right? Yes, a little. Fair trade pays farmers either the world market price, plus an extra 10 cents per pound—or, when the market price falls below a certain point, a minimum price. Between 2001 and 2007, the market price for a pound of Arabica never rose above $1.25, so the fair trade minimum wage of $1.20 per pound worked. But in recent years, the price reached $1.60, while fair trade upped its minimum only to $1.25. The raise resembles “an economy where everybody’s paid $15 an hour and they raise the minimum wage from $4.50 to $5.50,” said TransFair usa spokesman Anthony Marek. “It’s like an insurance policy.” But in practice, when the volatile prices of Arabica nose-dive, as they did in 2008 from $1.59 to $1.25, the superlow “insurance policy” of $1.25 leaves farmers in for a rude awakening.

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