Controversy within the Fair Trade organization may make Direct Trade the more obvious choice for socially conscious coffee drinkers in America.
An internal argument between Fair Trade International and Fair Trade USA ended last week with an official split between the organizations.
The primary motives for this division are as follows:
1) Which farmers can get Fair Trade certified?
A. Fair Trade USA will now allow large plantations to receive certification. The group claims this decision is intended to improve the lives of plantation workers, who without land or autonomy, are generally the poorest group in a coffee community.
B. Fair Trade International is committed to keeping the FT certification for small farms and farmers. This group feels that allowing plantations to acquire certification will increase their power and profit to the detriment of small farms, who will have a harder time competing in the global market, while hardly helping the plantation worker.
2) What constitutes Fair Trade?
A. Fair Trade USA has decided to grant certification when 10% of the beans are fair trade. They hope this decision will double sales in the US (by 2015), and that by increasing the volume of sales, they will be able to increase the impact of Fair Trade. They will also no longer be required to pay fees to the International umbrella group, an amount that topped $1.5 million last year alone.
B. Fair Trade International will keep the standard certification requirement of 20%, and feels that the US groups' decision to dilute the standards is motivated by earning more fees (every certification is accompanied by fees that cover the necessary audits, one of the arguments against Fair Trade in general). This group is concerned that this will encourage companies to include only the minimal amount necessary for certification.
This split has forced many companies to re-evaluate where they stand on the Fair Trade issue, including industry giants like Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and Green Mountain.
Certification logos are about to change to delineate the two groups, making things more confusing for consumers, who may not be aware of how the certifications differ. The controversy may make Direct Trade models more popular, as people come to realize how much of the premium they pay for Fair Trade certification is channeled towards administrative and auditing costs, and how much of the product is actually Fair Trade.
For the caring consumer, small companies with direct and transparent relationships with growers are a good choice…..less is lost in the shuffle and more time and money are concentrated on those who really need it. You can forget about percents and buy Grower's First coffee----all the information you need about where your money is going and how your coffee was grown is right on our website!!