Submitted by Fair Trade USA
Fair Trade Certified coffee imports have grown at a dramatic 75% average annual growth rate since TransFair USA launched the label in late 1998. In 2003, market growth accelerated to 91%, demonstrating increased consumer demand for Fair Trade coffee as well as the concept’s entry into mainstream distribution channels like Dunkin’ Donuts. Faced with declining quality, the destabilization of historically high-quality suppliers, and growing concern over the suffering of coffee farmers in today’s prolonged price crisis, the specialty coffee industry is embracing Fair Trade certification as the most effective strategy for delivering a fair price back to farmers. As a result, Fair Trade has emerged as the fastest growing segment of the specialty coffee industry.
“The accelerating growth of this market in 2003 reaffirms that Fair Trade certification is a win-win for farmers, businesses and consumers alike. This growth confirms what market research has been indicating for some time now: consumers are increasingly concerned about where their products come from, as well as the social and environmental impact of those products,” said Paul Rice, CEO and President of TransFair USA. “ “The success of the Fair Trade Certified label is a tribute to the vision of the specialty coffee industry, which has demonstrated that Fair Trade is not only good for farmers, but also good for business. This is an industry and a model that enable us all to make a powerful difference with every cup.”
Since it opened its doors five years ago, TransFair USA’s certification of 41 million pounds of coffee, tea and cocoa has translated into millions of dollars in additional income for farmers in Latin America, Africa and Asia -- $34 million for coffee farmers alone. Farmers use the additional income to improve nutrition, healthcare, housing, education and quality of life for their families. The higher incomes also allow farmers to devote more meticulous attention to their crops to ensure a high quality harvest. For many, Fair Trade represents a chance for a brighter future.
“Thanks to Fair Trade, our income has grown tremendously over the past few years. In real terms, this means healthy children who can stay in school, instead of having to go to work in the fields. It means money to maintain the award-winning quality of our coffee which is demanded by discriminating U.S. consumers. And it means training programs to develop the management skills of our cooperative members and help them transition to organic coffee cultivation. Through Fair Trade we have achieved all these things,” said Sabino Brenes, a farmer with COOCAFE, a Fair Trade coffee cooperative based in Costa Rica. Founded in 1988, COOCAFE’s 3,500 family farmers export gourmet coffee to Europe, the U.S. and Canada.
Why Fair Trade Certification is Needed
Throughout Latin America, Asia, and Africa, family farmers follow generations of tradition to cultivate the world’s finest coffee, tea, bananas and other food products. Historically, however, lack of market access and price volatility in global commodities markets have prevented family farmers from receiving a fair price for their harvests. When local market prices fall below the cost of production, farming families struggle just to survive. Coffee is the second most heavily traded commodity in the world, after oil, and farmer prices have plummeted to their lowest level in recorded history, forcing millions of coffee farmers off the land and into poverty.
Fair Trade is an innovative, market-based approach to sustainable development. Fair Trade helps family farmers in developing countries gain direct access to international markets, as well as develop the business capacity necessary to compete in the global marketplace. By learning how to market their own harvests, Fair Trade farmers are able to bootstrap their own businesses and receive a fair price for their top-quality products. This leads to higher family living standards, thriving communities and more sustainable farming practices. Fair Trade empowers farming families to take care of themselves – without developing dependency on foreign aid.
Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit organization, is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in North America. Fair Trade USA audits and certifies transactions between companies and their international suppliers to ensure that the farmers and workers producing Fair Trade Certified goods were paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment, and receive community development funds to empower and uplift their communities. Fair Trade USA also educates consumers, brings new manufacturers and retailers into the system, and provides farming communities with tools, training and resources to thrive as international businesspeople. Visit www.FairTradeCertified.org for more information.
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