Saturday, February 24, 2007

Fair Traded Coffee: Are we doing enough?

For many Canadians, coffee is an essential part of life. Everyday, I have a cup of coffee, and chances are, so do you. But do you think about that coffee (other than how it tastes)? I don't even think much about where my coffee came from before it arrived at Starbucks. We all know that it comes from fairly temperate climates, mostly in third-world countries. But how much of this coffee is actually fairly-traded (meaning that the farmer of the coffee plant gets a reasonable deal when selling his coffee)?

I'm going to talk about the 'fair traded-ness' of Starbucks coffee. In fiscal 2005, Starbucks paid approximately 23% more per pound for high-quality coffee than the average New York "C" (some type of coffee price index or pricing). While this seems quite good (at least in our world plagued with corporations), is this really high enough? Starbucks pays US $1.28 per pound of high-quality coffee. But if you walk into a Starbucks store, a one-pound of coffee costs more than CAD $12. Do you see the gap in price? The ones who probably work the hardest, per pound, to make coffee get the least amount of the money.

Overall, how much Starbucks coffee is actually fairly traded? According to the Starbucks Social Responsibility brochure, there are two categories for 'social responsibility' in buying coffee. To start, the first, and original, Fair Trade Certified™ (FTC) coffee. Of all FTC coffee imported into America in 2005, Starbucks purchased 21% of that, which means that it is the largest
purchaser of FTC coffee in North America. Again, this sounds (and is) great, but despite this, FTC coffee made up only 3.7% of the total Starbucks coffee purchases in 2005 (I will give them some credit: this number is up 2.1% from 2004). The second category: Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) practices (another somewhat fairly traded coffee guideline). Of all 2005 coffee purchases, CAFE made up 24.6% (up 10.1% from 2004).

The total percentage of Starbucks coffee that is of the fair trade background: 28.3%. Not even a third. While I do applaud Starbucks for being a leader in social responsibility regarding coffee (and it's quite amazing that a multi-billion dollar company would do this), I want to ask why 100% of coffee is not fairly traded. If you do not agree with me, try thinking of it this way: 71.7% of Starbucks coffee is not fairly traded. And remember, fair traded does not mean that there was a little extra money for the farmers to put into the bank so they can get a new Toyota in a few years, it means that the farmers weren't 'ripped-off'.

So what can you do? Check (or ask) how much fair traded coffee is in the coffee you drink at a coffee shop, or the coffee that's in a tin can from a store, make sure that you drink only the most fair traded coffee you can find, and tell your friends about the wonders of fair trade!

Also on fair trade:

On January 2nd, 2007, there was a very interesting letter to the editor in Saskatoon's Star Phoenix about fair traded chocolate. It's an interesting read.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone really think about their coffee? Personally, I just drink it.

Dylan said...

Good by Tim Hortons! It's terrible how poorly those farmers are being treated, just for our $1 coffees.

UncleMeat said...

Then I guess you would be in favour of Fair Trade wheat and barley, the kind that a Saskatchewan farmer could sell on their own without fear of jail.


Alex said...

Obviously, fair trade is not the word to be used in the whole CWB argument. The fact is, and many right-wing people even admit it, that farmers make more money with the single-desk than they could without the single-desk. It is a fact.

But coffee farmers, because they are often in undemocratic, corrupt, poor countries, get exploited by corporations and their own governments.

Anonymous said...

I think fair trade is very important and people should be more aware about it. I don't drink coffee but I do eat chocolate and fair trade chocolate actually tastes much better!!! So from now on I'm am going to try harder to buy fair trade!:)