Cafés de Especialidade - Fair Trade/Fairtrade

Specialty Coffees - Fair Trade/Fairtrade

Several of our Specialty coffees are FairTrade (FLO) certified, and many of our customers ask what this certification is.

We decided to create a blog with a brief explanation and the advantages of coffees having this certification, which is important for Asante.

Fair Trade/Fairtrade

If you're curious about certifications, we'll explore some of the existing certifications that are available for specialty green coffee, including taking a look at their mission, standards, and any other auditing or other requirements that are important for you to know.

We'll explore what " Fair Trade " means around the world, how to become Fair Trade certified, and how this alternative marketing philosophy can benefit farmers.


Fair Trade at a glance

In short, to set the stage for the rest of this trip, here is a simplified list of Fairtrade International (FLO)/Fair Trade USA key standards and principles.

  • Prices for certified products are fixed with a built-in premium, and the producer is expected to reallocate some percentage to grow, improve, or sustain his production.
  • Goods purchased by certified producers must also be purchased at a price above what is called the Fairtrade "base" price, or a minimum price per unit established by the enforcement entity and intended to protect farmers in the event of a decline. or market collapse C.
  • Certified producers may be required to operate on a small scale: For FLO certification, only small producers associated with democratically managed organizations (such as a cooperative) can obtain certification, while FTUSA allows certification for individual operators, such as large producers commercial and/or property.
  • Certified producers are required to participate in environmentally sound practices such as proper waste management, water maintenance, limited and responsible use of agrochemicals, and protection of soil fertility.
  • GMOs are prohibited.
  • Certified producers are prohibited from using child, slave, or forced labor.
  • Acceptance and compliance with regular audits is required.


Definition of "Fair trade

Before Fairtrade was a certification, it was a movement: Throughout this piece, you'll see the term spelled in a number of different ways, including "fairtrade" in lower case, which is how we refer to the general philosophy of sourcing that began in the years 40. You will also see "fair trade", two words and capital letters, referring to the US-based organization, standards and initiatives. When the word "Fairtrade" (close) is written, it implies the involvement of the FLO, or Fairtrade Labeling Organization International, which is generally known as Fairtrade International.


Confusing, right? Yes, we know. That's why this next section exists.

There are many ways of describing or defining what Fair Trade/Fair Trade means, but the most common one you are likely to hear is something simplified like "it means the producer gets more money for his work or product", and often what the speaker what it means is that there is a built-in price premium for simply having some form of Fairtrade certification. This is true: Fairtrade certified goods come with a “Premium” in the price – but that is not the only function of this certificate. It is also a brand that implies the use of fair labor (no child or slave labor, for example), environmentally sound practices, and - historically perhaps the most significant objective - the desire to empower small farmers, encouraging them to join to gain more market access and leverage. (More on this last point in just a moment).

Why is this premium price important? Good question, thanks for asking!

In the 1940s, as a response to the cycles of exploitation and abuse that arose from increasingly globalized capitalism, many religious, charitable and/or non-governmental organizations began to seek to develop more equitable supply chains between consumers and producers specifically producers in the Global South, or countries that had been adversely affected economically by colonialism. Business models like Dez Mil Aldeias grew from this initial impulse, selling art, crafts, textiles and other handcrafted items in order to solicit donations that would be used to strengthen these supply chains in their home country.

Throughout the 1960s, and specifically in Europe, the politicized retreat against the continued exploitation of labor through international trade gave rise to a "Trade not Aid" philosophy that saw the emergence of alternative commercial initiatives (the so-called "trade fair") designed to bypass complicated chains of custody, linking buyers and sellers more directly through commercial networks, stores, catalogs, and other highly specialized means. Alternative trade organizations such as Oxfam emerged at this time.

Then, in the late 1980s, consumer demand for credibility and traceability led to the transformation of the concept of fair trade into something more standardized, recognizable and easily distributable through multiple (rather than specialized) channels.

The first official alternative trade certification, called Max Havelaar, was established in the Netherlands in 1988 and named for a 19th-century Dutch novel about the horrors of the Indonesian coffee trade under Dutch colonial control. This was the first certification that allowed certified products to be sold in major stores, rather than being limited to exclusively fair trade markets.

The rest of Europe and the United States were inspired by Max Havelaar, and the 1990s saw several new international initiatives to solidify and legitimize the philosophy of fair trade. Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International ( FLO International ) emerged in 1997, creating an amalgamation of similar certification organizations around the world and trying to standardize them according to their policies and procedures.

Fairtrade International (FLO) is the oldest standard-setting body, and its certification arm ( FLO-CERT ) is the oldest body of its kind. In 2012, the US standardization body, Fair Trade USA, split from FLO in order to create and support its own set of certification requirements and prerequisites.

The main ideological difference between Fair Trade USA and Fairtrade International is that FLO certification is only available to small producers who belong to democratically managed associations or cooperatives, whereas FTUSA recognizes cooperatives as well as individual and large-scale producers. (Fair Trade USA defines "small scale" as farms that have 0-5 permanent workers and less than 25 total workers; large scale operations have more than 25 permanent workers or more than 100 total workers).

This last point is relatively fundamental to understanding the evolution of the movement and the philosophy behind fair trade: Perhaps the fundamental principle of Fairtrade International has been the initiative to encourage small farmers to simulate an economy of scale, grouping themselves in associations and cooperatives with democratic leadership. This aspect of the movement was intended to provide them with greater access to a competitive market, create ways for producers to share and pool resources, and provide greater transparency and traceability to producers who have historically sold their products anonymously and for little (if any) profit. back in your pockets. To date, FLO only certifies smallholder farmers who are affiliated with democratically operating producer groups, as benefits to collective action and advocacy have always been the main objective.

Fair Trade USA, on the other hand, states that individual and even large-scale plantation operations must be eligible for certification, which causes FTUSA to focus more on the other standards (reduction of agrochemicals, labor protections, etc. ), as well as the premium associated with certification, and the guaranteed security that comes with the minimum price.


Obtaining certification

Producers interested in obtaining certification will have to apply and be audited, which means that they must first meet the requirements of FLO-CERT, FTUSA, or another supervisory body. The process can take several months or longer, depending on how much current operations need to be changed in order to comply.

Certification costs also vary depending on the complexity of the process: For example, organizations will likely need to make investments in their operations at both the group and individual farm level in order to achieve certification compliance, the which will add expenses above and beyond the cost of application and auditing. Audit costs will also vary based on the number of producers and labor hired, and much more.

Initial and annual fees to the certification body are paid per unit, such as 3c/lb.

Traders also need to be registered with Fairtrade/Fairtrade certification bodies to prove our own compliance (eg that we are paying the appropriate premiums and using the seals and logos properly).

Roasters wishing to sell Fairtrade labeled items will need to do the same and can do so by filling out an application with their preferred entity.

Is fair trade coffee better?

As with any other specialty coffee certification, model, philosophy and practice, there is no answer to this question: We encourage our customers to consider some of the significant pros and cons of this certification before reaching a conclusion.


There are certainly advantages to Fair Trade/Fairtrade certification, including:

  • Motivation to empower small and independent producers and to provide greater market access/leverage
  • Potential to earn higher coffee prices thanks to certification-related rewards
  • The potential risk mitigation built into the base price
  • Increased assurance of environmentally sound cultivation and processing practices
  • Protections against labor abuse, such as child, forced, or bonded labor
  • Training, support and dissemination for producers
  • Increased traceability
  • commercial advantage

Of course, there are also drawbacks:

  • Fairtrade/Fairtrade does not have any quality standards or restrictions related to in-cup scoring
  • The different international standards can be somewhat confusing for the customer.
  • Price higher than what the buyer can find for coffee of equivalent quality
  • The associated costs of producers and the work involved in complying
  • Buyer/Seller requires registration and compliance

Original text from our partner Cafe Imports

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