The Fairtrade logo has been on our supermarket shelves for just under 30 years - an instantly recognisable sticker that is still considered by UK shoppers as one of the most important things to look for when we’re marching down the aisles on our weekly shop, but what exactly does it mean?
For many, it’s a mark indicating that in amongst all this inequality, someone, somewhere, is hopefully getting paid a fairer share - a general feeling that the money you’re spending is going directly into the hands of the people who work hard across the whole supply chain.
In actual fact, Fairtrade is so much more than that. During our visit to Corquín and the CAFICO Cooperative, we got a first-hand look at what exactly Fairtrade is doing for the worldwide coffee industry, and how much it means to the people and communities on the ground.
It’s a safety net against a volatile and unpredictable global market
Fairtrade maintains a minimum price per pound of coffee. This may not sound like much, but due to the volatility of the coffee market, the Fairtrade minimum has been enforced in 15 of the last 25 years, ensuring farmers can earn enough to cover at least the basic costs of sustainable production.
It’s a set of checks and balances in areas that simply don’t have them
Unfortunately, coffee is often grown in some of the world’s poorest areas. Corruption and poverty are often major issues, but Fairtrade acts as a check against the worst, making sure every part of the coffee chain is carefully regulated. It’s far from simple, and means every player (including brokers, exporters & producer groups) has to work hard to show exactly what is happening to the premiums at every step of the way - but it’s more than worth it.
It’s FLO-ID certification provides transparency and accountability
Fairtrade’s FLO-ID programme is world-renowned - a system which allows every single transaction and premium to be traced right back to source. Every organisation has to be independently inspected and verified to ensure that they're complying with the Fairtrade Standards. With this ID, we can track every single bag of green coffee back to its source, and find out exactly where the premium we paid has gone, and what it’s being used for.
It’s an educator & an investor
The other, often overlooked, role Fairtrade has is in providing essential training and support to farmer organisations, to help them thrive. Whether that’s basic education, or training farmers to adapt better to changing climate and weather conditions, it’s a crucial ingredient in ensuring producers are not only treated fairly, but given the tools to grow and develop.