I see you, smugly smiling over your morning cup of fair-trade coffee, gratified at the unimaginable impact your thoughtfully chosen beans must be bringing to poor coffee growers overseas. Well, think again.
Low prices coupled with coffee rust is threatening the livelihoods of many farmers in Central America. Consumers are paying more for coffee; producers are getting paid less; and those in the middle are making money from both.
If you happen across a café that serves THRIVE Farmers Coffee, your cup may as well be served straight from the worn hands of the Costa Rican farmer that grew the beans for its brew. And he would definitely be smiling.
In October 2012, when Hershey's announced it would "certify" all its cocoa by 2020, the corporate candy giant received lukewarm applause for finally publically acknowledging its sourcing of cocoa from plantations that exploit child labor.
Do you drink coffee? Do you think about where that coffee comes from, and who harvests those beans? Do you consider how much you pay for your morning fix, and how that impacts the salary those farmers make?
Fair trade is a term we often hear thrown around when it comes to coffee, tea, produce and even diamonds. What does it mean, though, and how much difference does buying fair-trade food and products really make?
The idea of "fair" trade is very appealing, whether confronting the plight of autoworkers in Michigan or farmers in the Third World. Unfortunately, it will be only a small part of any trade solution for the U.S. and the world as a whole.