Fair deal for coffee farmers

Coffee farmers under Fairtrade agreements received between eight and 26 times higher prices than those not affiliated to the global body, researchers at the UK’s University of Greenwich say.

The same group is also two to three times more likely to have access to training and services, according to a study conducted at the university’s National Resources Institute (NRI).

But Fairtrade organic farmers received the highest prices. Fairtrade International is the body that develops Fairtrade standards for products and operates global certification and audit systems.

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Fairtrade aims to ensure better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world.

A long established Fairtrade product, coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages and 80 per cent of it is produced by 25 million smallholders.

At least 800,000 small-scale farmers belong to one of the 445 Fairtrade –certified producer organisations in more than 30 countries. The four-year case study conducted by the NRI evaluated four countries across the world–Indonesia, Mexico, Peru and Tanzania.

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Kenya is also among countries that have producers growing the crop under Fairtrade standards. “The research team chose these countries to allow the study to explore diverse producer situations,” explains the NRI’s Prof Jeremy Haggar, a co-leader of the study.

According to Prof Haggar, these nations cover a selection of the main Fairtrade coffee- producing countries across three continents, with a large number of producers and important sources of Fairtrade coffee for buyers.

While the researchers identified numerous benefits for the farmers under the Fairtrade agreements, challenges still abound. Accountability of boards of directors and management amongst the sometimes very large memberships with up to tens of thousands of farmers has been a real problem.

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In particular, countering cultural norms of gender discrimination has seen organisation making progress with others unsure about what to do.

The researchers’ recommendations to Fairtrade include the strengthening of producer organisations and brokering partnerships to address wider social and environmental issues.

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