Thursday, May 04, 2006

Fair Trade

What the article does not tell you: the big coffee companies sell only a small portion of their product as Fair Trade. While the big roasters sell Fair Trade at way more than the added premium paid to the farmers, many of the Sustainable Coffee importers sell an even better product at substantially less. Fair Trade is only one element to Sustainable (Specialty) Coffee. The Chemical Free or Organic element offers even greater benefit to the consumer as does the freedom from genetic modification, NGM. From an environmental view-point too, the absence of mechanized farming in the rugged volcanic high mountain forests preserves the rain forest canopy and the creatures that live there --- and prevents erosion too. Furthermore that protective canopy shades the slow, mellow ripening of the highest grade SHB Arabica coffee cherries. Only the beans from high altitude, usually above 5,000 ft. and of necessity hand picked, earn the coveted designation as Strictly Hard Bean, SHB. A number of churches support these Sustainable Coffees with large scale initiatives within the Catholic and Lutheran Churches.

Not all the coffees within the Sustainable Coffee movement are certified. There is a fair amount of mordida in the certification process and the poorest most remote farmers cannot afford the cost or time for certification. The certified importers, however go to great lengths to see that the farmers get the money and that the supply chain is authenticated. Sustainable applies to the consumer as well. The price must be affordable, the health benefits sufficient and the quality high, so that the market will continue to grow.

An interesting article on the BBC highlights elements of Fair Trade, and a small Sustainable Coffee importer, Earth Friendly Coffee tell the story in detail.