I’ve posted previously about Fairtrade and why it was a no-brainer from day 1 that New Kings Coffee would be Fairtrade (and Organic). But given it’s Fairtrade Fortnight (26 February to 11 March), it feels appropriate to write again about what Fairtrade means, both to us and to the people who grow and produce our coffee.
As Fairtrade say on their website, “It's a shocking fact that millions of farmers and workers who produce the food we love still don’t earn enough to feed their own families”. When I stop and think about that for a second, it’s crazy, right? The people that grow and produce some of our best-loved and most consumed foods can’t even afford to feed their own families. As a dad of two young daughters, I can’t even begin to think how I would feel in that situation. Aggrieved, anxious and unfairly treated I suspect.
This is why it’s so important to know where the food we consumer comes from and in what conditions it was farmed and produced (as well as all the other stuff we buy). This is where Fairtrade comes in.
The Fairtrade Foundation’s mission is “to connect disadvantaged producers and consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and empower producers to combat poverty, strengthen their position and take more control over their lives.” One of the main ways Fairtrade enacts its mission is through ensuring better prices for farmers and producers. It does this through setting minimum prices for products (the Fairtrade Minimum Price) and by paying an additional Fairtrade Premium, which is to be invested in community projects of the community’s choice.
The Fairtrade Minimum Price – this is essentially a price collar, which only becomes applicable whenever the free market price of a product falls below a certain threshold. For coffee, the Fairtrade Minimum Price is $1.40 per pound weight of coffee ($1.70 if it’s organic as well). So the Fairtrade Minimum Price ensures coffee farmers and their families receive at least $1.40 for their hard efforts in growing and producing a pound of coffee. When I wrote about Fairtrade back in September 2017, I commented then that the market price of coffee was currently below the Fairtrade Minimum Price and hadn’t been above it for much of the previous 4 months. Five months on from that article and the market price for coffee continues to decline, currently at $1.21. So the Fairtrade Minimum Price has really been paying it’s way since New Kings Coffee was launched.
The Fairtrade Premium - Over and above the Fairtrade price, the Fairtrade Premium is an additional sum of money which goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use – as they see fit – to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions. Producers determine what is most important to them; whether this is education or healthcare for their children, improving their business or building vital infrastructure such as roads and bridges for their community. The current Fairtrade Premium is $0.20 per pound weight of coffee and this adds up to over $100m in additional funding for Fairtrade communities.
In return for the higher price, Fairtrade set social, economic and environmental standards for the farmers and workers, and check that these are being met throughout the supply chain. The Fairtrade logo is then awarded to products where these standards are consistently achieved.
So hopefully you can see the value Fairtrade creates for farmers and producers. It’s impact is significant around the world, particularly when it comes to coffee:
Buying Fairtrade products supports over 1.7m farmers and workers around the world;
Two thirds of these are in Africa and other low income regions;
Globally, a quarter are women but women can make up to 70% of the workforce in some countries;
Over half of all Fairtrade supported farmers produce coffee, the largest workforce of any Fairtrade product;
And over 50% of Fairtrade producers are also Organic certified - organic culture means more than just organic fertilizer: it is about incorporating principles and values into farming practices, and balancing the needs of business, society and the environment.
Fairtrade claims that buying Fairtrade products gives the consumer “the power to change the world every day”. I, for one, am up for that. What about you? I’d love to hear your views.
Jason Nichols, Founder, New Kings Coffee
If you want to see more about the beneficial impact Fairtrade has on coffee farmers and producers, check out this '360 degree' film (you can actually control where the camera is pointing!):