There’s a lot of talk about doing the right thing in the coffee industry and I frequently find myself in some lively debates around this issue. But what does ethical/fair/decent (delete as appropriate) really mean? How do we ensure that the people who matter in producing coffee, the farmers and workers, benefit as much as everyone else?
When commodity markets crash, smallholder farmers suffer the consequences by receiving low prices for their coffee. This is why many consumers in the UK tend to be very supportive of Fairtrade certification which gives some protection to vulnerable groups of farmers and ensures they receive a minimum price irrespective of how low the markets may fall.
But does the Fairtrade model accomplish all it sets out to achieve?