A lot of work goes into producing a cup of coffee. It is all too easy to forget that in our busy world. If you visit any coffee shop, look at the supermarket shelves or search for coffee online, you will see the Fairtrade wording. You will likely also see that many brands of coffee claim to be Fairtrade.
In this article we will explain exactly what Fairtrade means and why you may think that is very important for you.
What is Fairtrade in the UK?
Fairtrade is a global movement with a strong and active presence in the UK, represented by the Fairtrade Foundation. They support small scale farmers and workers who are marginalised from trade in a variety of ways and carefully monitor the impact of Fairtrade on these communities. There are over 1.66 million farmers and workers in 1,411 producer organisations across the Fairtrade system.
Understanding how coffee is produced
Coffee starts off as a plant that grows and produces berries. These berries, which are coffee beans, get harvested, then roasted and then they are sold to companies who go on to distribute and sell the coffee beans.
It is a system that is pretty similar to many small farmers in the UK. They produce vegetables by growing them, then they harvest them and sell them on to larger companies such as supermarkets. The really important thing to understand is that those small farmers are almost completely dependent on those supermarkets to buy their yields. For those farmers that also means the big supermarkets can really squeeze them on the price they are willing to pay.
The vast majority of coffee that is produced is in countries that sit along the equator. Mainly those that sit between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. These countries include Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia etc Click here if you want to find out which countries produce coffee.
The vast majority of coffee is grown by small farmers. These smallholder farmers are simply not able to predict their income, as they are at the mercy of a good harvest and global demand. Climate change is also starting to impact the production of coffee beans in many countries and mainly in Brazil.
Coffee as a Commodity
We will try not to bore you too much with this explanation but we think it's important to understand. Many goods are traded on stock markets. The biggest commodity in the world is crude oil. In second place is coffee, the biggest drink sold except for water.
Many factors can influence the trading price from simple things like supply and demand, to a poor harvest, war and political policies. This makes the coffee market quite volatile.
At the bottom end of the food chain is the small coffee farmer. According to Fairtrade they get anywhere between 5-15% of the Retail price of coffee. In other words the larger companies can easily exploit small farmers and this of course means cheap labour for a lot of hard work.
What Fairtrade are Accomplishing?
Fairtrade sets social, economic and environmental standards for the companies and farmers involved in the coffee supply chain. For farmers and workers the standards include protection of workers’ rights and the environment. For participating companies they include the payment of the Fairtrade Minimum Price safety net and an additional Fairtrade Premium.
The minimum price means that farmers at least get a minimum price even when there is a poor harvest. The Fairtrade Premium is a pool of money hat is collected from participating companies and paid to the coffee farmer organisations in different countries for them to invest.
Right now as of 2022 there are 1,880 Fairtrade certified producer organisations in 71 countries.
List of UK Companies Buying Fairtrade Coffee
- AMT Coffee
- ARCTIC Coffee
- BIRD & WILD
- COFFEE PLANT
- COOL EARTH COFFEE
- CRU KAFE
- DRURY TEA AND COFFEE
- EROS COFFEE
- ESQUIRES COFFEE
- GRUMPY MULE
- HARVEY NICHOLS
- JOE ND THE JUICE
- JAMES AIMER
- JENIPHER's COFFI
- KAFFEE HAUS
- JOHN LEWIS & PARTNERS
- LAND GIRLS
- KINGDOM COFFEE
- MATTHEW ALGIE
MILES TEA & COFFEE
- NAIROBI TEA AND COFFEE COMPANY
- NEW KINGS COFFEE
- OWENS COFFEE ROASTERS
- PERKEE COFFEE
- PIZZA EXPRESS
- PLANET ORGANIC
- REVOLVER CO-OPERATIVE Ltd
- SOHO COFFEE
- SPILLER & TAIT
- STEWARTS COFFEE
- TCHIBO COFFEE INTRENATIONAL LTD
- THE DEVON COFFEE COMPANY
- UCC COFFEE
- WEST CORNWALL PASTY
- WICKED COFFEE
- WOGAN COFFEE