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Fair Trade Coffee

More than just a better price for the farmers

By Philip Howeth

Coffee Corner

More than 70% of today's coffee comes from small-scale farmers who own 12 acres or less. These families find it extremely difficult to sell their coffee on their own at a reasonable, sustainable rate. Isolated communities lack direct market access, forcing farmers to sell to middlemen at below market price. The cycle of debt continues this way, and in some cases, farmers are forced to leave their land to find work in cities.

This is one of the many reasons why Fair Trade USA encourages small-scale farmers to form co-ops. Coffee co-ops are democratically run, and decisions are made through majority vote. The members are able to pool their resources and receive technical training, while improving education and communication between the farmers regarding coffee quality. Essentially, these small-scale farmers are able to receive a better price by banding together while upholding high quality standards consistent between co-op members.

Sustainable agriculture is another stipulation certified farmers must adhere to. Genetically modified coffee plants are prohibited, water resources are protected, erosion control is practiced, and slash and burn techniques are forbidden. Agricultural diversification is a beneficial practice, and in some cases, farmers grow more than just coffee on their land, including tropical fruit and nut trees, which provide shade for the coffee plants while also providing additional income.

Social and economic development is a very important aspect of the Fair Trade movement. Funds from premiums are used to meet the needs of coffee communities, including road improvement, farming and processing equipment purchases, continuing education workshops, medical supplies for health clinics, and books for schools.

There are clearly many reasons to support Fair Trade, and rest assured that all 53x11 coffees support this movement. It is a win-win situation when you buy 53x11 Coffee; you get excellent organic coffee, and by simply making that purchase, your small contribution is helping to make a profound difference in the lives of many hardworking people. HN

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