Fairtrade products buying guide

Buying Fairtrade products is a way to make your buying decisions improve the lives of small producers in developing countries.
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  • Updated:27 Aug 2007

02.Chocolate and coffee

Bitter reality

harvesting coffee beansThe coffee trade provides a living for more than 20 million farmers in developing countries. Coffee is the second most valuable commodity in world trade after crude oil. Sadly, under a free market, many producers have little to no access to price information or direct contact with their buyers. This leaves countless farmers vulnerable to exploitation and world price fluctuations.

A 2002 report from the Fairtrade Foundation found that coffee beans can change hands as many as 150 times by the time they reach consumers on the shelves. Each time the beans go through a middleman, a proportion of the return is absorbed. For every $2.50 cup of coffee you buy, the farmer will earn as little as three cents.

When world prices fall, growers lose a large portion of their income, even though there may not be a matching reduction in supermarket prices of coffee.

Fairtrade helps by setting a base price for coffee beans, to ensure disadvantaged farmers still receive a minimum guaranteed price for their work . If the market price goes above the guaranteed minimum, the producer receives the higher of the two, maintaining the incentive for farmers to remain competitive in the quality of their produce. 

Child labour and cocoa

The poor conditions faced by producers in the developing world aren’t limited to the coffee industry. Every time you bite into a piece of chocolate, chances are you’re at the consumption end of child labour.

The Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand (FTAANZ) reported on their website that as many as 284,000 children in West Africa are working under dangerous conditions on cocoa farms, with many subjected to forced labour and exposed to harmful pesticides and chemicals on a daily basis. At the end of the day, each member of a cocoa farming family may earn as little as US$30 per year.


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