Fairtrade Thread.

Rowley

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Mar 7, 2003
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If you use Fairtrade Coffee, have used Fairtrade in the past, or are just interested in investing in Fairtrade for personal or business uses, Post your experiences, thoughts and comments here.
 

mightybean

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Apr 8, 2003
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Medina, Ohio
Fair trade is alright, only one problem, actually several, in a 50 lbs bag of green beans I have pulled out about 2-3 lbs of un-usable !@#$!*. I guess if they fix this I'll give em another shot.

Ron
 
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Rowley

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Mar 7, 2003
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California
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By "" un-usable !@#$!*. "" What do you mean? like twigs and rocks? I do remmeber i have a pound of coffee from some far off land that I discontinued drinking because of all the "" un-usable !@#$!*. "" i found in it hehehe.

At least i didn't find any whole dead bugs... or living ones ... ewwwww
 

wulf

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Oct 29, 2003
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London, UK
Why is the fair trade coffee more problematic? As I understand it, the 'rule' of fair trade is that they pay the workers a reasonable amount of money to live on rather than a pittance so, in theory, they should be motivated to do a better job.

Most of the coffee I drink at home is pre-ground Cafe Direct, which I find perfectly adequate (perhaps not the most gourmet coffee available but find for day to day use). When I go out for coffee, I look for the fair trade option - if the cafes don't have it, I'm as likely to drink something else because, from my perspective as an ethical consumer, I don't want my luxuries at the expense of someone else's well being.

Wulf
 

mightybean

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Apr 8, 2003
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Medina, Ohio
The principle behind Fair Trade is good, we all want people to be paid an honest days wages for an honest days work, I am hardly qualified nor are most people able to understand the economic polices of lands that produce coffee. I'd say that most coffee producing nations have "command economies" or some other economic system other than a capitalist system. Despite what anyone thinks, the fact is most countries that have dictator or command economies have larger populations of poor people. I guess my question is if a true capitalist ecomomic system were in place in the majority of coffee producing nations there would be no need for "Fair Trade". Buy buying Fair Trade are the people who buy Fair Trade supporting "command" and "dictator" lead economies. I 'd say "more than likely". What Say Yee forum.

Ron

P.S. This could be a hot topic, how about the free flow of different ideas on this. This is a deep topic that has no simple answers. Lets see what kind of facts we dig up. I look forward to hearingother thoughts on this.
 

wulf

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Oct 29, 2003
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London, UK
Ron,

Interesting argument but... if 'fair trade' and 'non fair trade' coffee comes from the same nations then both are supporting what you classify as "command economies" (what does that mean? - I'm not an economist :D ).

Arguably, fair trade is more likely to promote the development of more democratic and flexible systems in those countries by potentially allowing the producers of the coffee to consider issues other than day to day subsistence, whereas non-fair trade products produce more wealth for the 'middle men', involved in buying and shipping the goods and perhaps more likely to be in favour of an oppressive status quo.

Therefore, non-fair trade coffee could be propping up oppressive regimes, supported by those (in free capitalist economies) who choose to purchase what is best for them (price / quality) without considering the welfare of the original producer.

Wulf
 

mightybean

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Wulf

Adam Smith wrote about "The Invisible Hand" I believe it was in "The Wealth of Nations". Well if you are into Smith and the economic system known as "free markets". The market would eventually set its own price that would be fair for the farmer and fair for the consumer. The key being that the market sets the price. The market is the "invisible hand". It is my belief that if coffee producing nations had free markets that free trade would not be an issue. The invisible hand would set the market price for coffee. This does not happen overnight, it takes time, in fact a generation of people may have to go through a hard time just so their children can have a better life. I am only 30 years old but I have seen what happens when the invisible hand is left to do its work. When I was a kid I remember when Poland went from the command ecomony known as socialism and into free markets, it was not easy and it was not pretty, The first few times that the farmers brought in their food to sell, the citizens would not pay what the farmers wanted for vegetables and eggs. The farmers were mad and so were the citizens. The government had decided to keep free of the situation and let the invisible hand set the market. The next time the farmers showed up at the market their prices were more inline with what the citizens thought was acceptable and the farmers sold everything they brought. After that the market was set and the markets flourished.

Free Markets are not perfect systems and capitalism can be cruel when their is no compassion, but government must not interfer with the invisible hand. When it is left to do its work there will be no need for "fair trade coffee"

Ron
 

wulf

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London, UK
I remain unconvinced by the theory of the invisible hand - I see too many visible, grasping hands to find it easy to believe. After all, there are plenty of examples where 'free' economies choose to buy goods from 'oppressive' economies because they benefit. Imagine the farmer in the neighbouring valley finds some way to sell his eggs for less than the production cost of the original farmers... while the ethical response would be to negotiate with the local suppliers to find an agreed realistic price level, the free approach would probably be to buy from the guy over the hill and force the first lot of farmers out of their jobs.

As consumers, we have to choose to buy responsibly - seeking just to get the fairest deal rather than the best deal for ourselves. Even if all the countries of the world ran on Western democratic lines (ignoring the 'imperialistic' assumption that our way is the best way for everyone - or that the earth could support 6 billion people leading a consumerist lifestyle) that would still be the case.

Wulf
 

topher

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Staff member
Aug 14, 2003
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Boca Raton
Fair Trade...What percentage goes to the farmer and what percentage goes to the "Fair-Trade" organization for "administration costs" My other question is..If I can not sell my product at a price where I can survive...will there become an organization to help me feed my family..a "non-profit" fair roasters group?
 

wulf

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Oct 29, 2003
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London, UK
topher said:
Fair Trade...What percentage goes to the farmer and what percentage goes to the "Fair-Trade" organization for "administration costs" My other question is..If I can not sell my product at a price where I can survive...will there become an organization to help me feed my family..a "non-profit" fair roasters group?
Probably less than the percentage that can get snapped up by unscrupulous 'middle-men' in many other 'trade routes'. Obviously, the details will vary from place to place. I've got a lot of respect for the UK-based Fair Trade Foundation and, as a consumer, have found the quality of the products I have tried to be fine (certainly comparable to competing products in the same bracket). If you've got evidence that this mark hides malpractise, then I'd be very interested to hear it because at the moment I've got no reason to doubt their claims. However, I don't know, for example, exactly what 'fair trade' means in the US or who is behind it.

On whether there would ever be a 'fair roasters group'... I guess there could be if you and your family could barely subsist because of external price constraints - but that means much more than just having to go without cable and having to patch your clothes before throwing them out!

As a would-be ethical consumer, I do try to ensure that I am paying a fair price for the work done by others on my behalf... so if I had a neighbourhood coffee roaster (anyone know of one round Lewisham, London, UK) I'd consider using them rather than just getting my coffee at the supermarket.

Wulf
 

topher

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Aug 14, 2003
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I was not insinuating that the fair trade foundation was corrupt...just was wondering how much actually goes to the farmer...As to the other comment....My point was if I can not make my business work...I need to find a new line of work....am I wrong on that?
 

wulf

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Oct 29, 2003
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London, UK
topher said:
I was not insinuating that the fair trade foundation was corrupt...just was wondering how much actually goes to the farmer...As to the other comment....My point was if I can not make my business work...I need to find a new line of work....am I wrong on that?
I recognise that I've only got direct experience of the UK based organisation (and there only as a semi-informed consumer) so I was just being careful not to overstate my expertise. On the page:

http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/food_coffee.htm

they say:
In 2003, Fairtrade producer groups are receiving three times the international price for robustas and double the international price for arabicas.
but the price in the supermarket is directly comparable to equivalent products so I'm reasonably confident they're not skimming off the top (beyond reasonable costs).

On the point about not artificially supporting a failing business, I see where you're coming from. The downside of applying this to coffee producers is that, firstly, the international market has pushed prices too low so that would drive a lot of people out of coffee production (so we'd all have to drink soy substitutes instead) and also that coffee farmers who move to another production area often choose the much more 'rewarding' field of drugs.

If we want coffee produced (and thus the market for all the susidiary industries like roasting and providing refreshments) we need to be willing to pay a fair price for the raw material. Of course, on the postive side, modern communications technology makes it much easier to 'shrink' the world and get closer to the source provider. As a roaster, are you in contact with any of the people who grow and pick the beans you use?

Wulf
 

mightybean

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Apr 8, 2003
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Medina, Ohio
Wulf

Here is where we lose it you wrote
After all, there are plenty of examples where 'free' economies choose to buy goods from 'oppressive' economies because they benefit. Imagine the farmer in the neighbouring valley finds some way to sell his eggs for less than the production cost of the original farmers... while the ethical response would be to negotiate with the local suppliers to find an agreed realistic price level, the free approach would probably be to buy from the guy over the hill and force the first lot of farmers out of their jobs.

This is were westeren thought differs from the rest of the world. If the guy who can't sell his eggs because someone else can sell them cheaper he has 2 choices. 1) Invest in whatever it takes to make his eggs cost less or 2) Get out of the egg selling business. We will both admit that the world only has so many resources right? Well I dont want anyone who is in-efficiant wasting our precious resources. The invisible hand will weed out those who dont stay ahead of the game. The guy who cant sell his eggs anymore doesn't deserve to sell eggs anymore. Also, I picked up that "imperialistic" line is that what we call a backhanded compliment in the states.

Ron[/quote]
 

wulf

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Oct 29, 2003
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London, UK
So what if the guy with the impossibly cheap eggs achieves this economic wonder by keeping thousands of chickens in tiny dark cages? It's over the hill so you don't suffer the sight and stench of the battery farm but does that mean that it's a better method than the free range farmers who live nearer to you?

Excuse the pun, but I don't buy the argument that cheaper is better (or necessarily more sustainable). The "invisible hand" could work if everyone played fairly in negotiating a price that was agreed as fair - it sounds like this is what happened in your earlier example:
The next time the farmers showed up at the market their prices were more inline with what the citizens thought was acceptable and the farmers sold everything they brought. After that the market was set and the markets flourished.
However, if some of the players have the economic wherewithal to artificially force their prices below the competition - which is somewhat easier if they're not the primary producers and don't suffer privations caused by a depressed market - then it's not so much an invisible hand of justice as a very heartless one that is ruling the market.

Fair trade isn't about subsidising someone to lounge around in the sun all day on a perpetual holiday. It is about trying to ensure that the people who produce the coffee have the same facility to provide for themselves and their families by honest labour as those protected by labour laws in Western societies.

Wulf
 

mightybean

New member
Apr 8, 2003
30
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Medina, Ohio
So what if the guy with the impossibly cheap eggs achieves this economic wonder by keeping thousands of chickens in tiny dark cages? It's over the hill so you don't suffer the sight and stench of the battery farm but does that mean that it's a better method than the free range farmers who live nearer to you?

This logic does not work, you automaticley have taken the position that the only way the farmer can sell his eggs cheaper is by mistreating his chickens. What if the guy found a feed mixture that he invented or found a method to produce eggs that was just plain more efficent. Over time the invisible hand will take the people who take short cuts and dont reinvest their profits back into the company and it will smash them into the ground. The problem is that we want that to happen overnight, thats a fantasy world Wulf these things take time and they are sometimes cruel. I mean someone losing their livley hood is awful, but to me whats even worse is if we support organiations that waste our prescious natural resources. What I am saying if left alone the invisible hand will make for " Fair Trade". Once the dictators are removed and the market is left the set the price of what is fair the inefficent farmers will be weeded out, the farmers who stay ahead of the competition who master the craft are going to be the ones who have made the best use of our limited resource. The laws should not protect farmers or busineses that waste our resources, the only way that happens is in free markets.

On a lighter note Wulf, Thanks for engaging me in this discussion I appreciate your positon, believe it or not we may be closer to agreeing on alot of things than we both realize. I am an a Human Resources student and business owner at a local university in Ohio. I own an online coffee and tea store (see profile) that I have had for about a year. I am also a dad to two beautiful children age 21 months and age 5. Check them out at www.caringbridge.com/page/emmahall . What about you.

Ron
 

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